New Team, New Leader
Nov. 14, 2014
By Austin Miller, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
OXFORD, Miss. — Jarvis Summers may have been the MVP, but Marshall Henderson was the unquestioned star of the Ole Miss men’s basketball team last season.
Now it’s Summers’ team as he looks to lead the Rebels back to the NCAA Tournament after having also played a role in the program’s breakthrough as a sophomore.
"I want him to be a leader and I want him to be steady," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "He has showed he is capable of those things. He had a great junior year. He's an all-league level player. For the first time, he realizes this is his team. We will go as far as he carries us, and he has accepted that challenge.
"Last year, a lot of the focus was on Marshall, and Jarvis did a great job of playing off of that. This year, he will be the focus. It will be a new role for him, and he will have to adjust accordingly."
The senior from Jackson, Mississippi, was one of the most improved players in the Southeastern Conference last season, ranking eighth in the league in scoring at 17.3 points per game, which more than doubled his 8.2 points per game average as a sophomore.
Summers was the only player in the league to rank in the top 10 in scoring and field goal percentage, and the top five in assists. He was also a model of consistency, leading the team in assists (3.8) and minutes (30.6) and scoring in double figures in 30 of the team’s 33 games.
His junior season was marked by individual success, as he earned All-SEC second team honors from the league’s coaches and won the Howell Trophy as the best college basketball player in the state of Mississippi, but not team success, as Ole Miss finished the season 19-14 and missed postseason play after losing in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.
“We learned we can’t take anything for granted,” Summers said. “We have to play hard every game and we can’t take any possessions off.”
Everyone has to lead and take ownership of the team, Summers said, but the responsibility starts with him.
“Everybody is out here working, starting with me,” Summers said. “I have to be a leader. Every day is a process, and we have to move forward. I’m looking to lead and be more vocal. Coach tells me if I’m more vocal, we can make big things happen.”
Ole Miss added five newcomers highlighted by two graduate transfers and two junior college transfers, giving the Rebels one of the most experienced teams in the SEC, with a league-high five seniors, including Summers.
"This is the most-experienced team I have coached at Ole Miss, where nine of our 13 scholarship players are upperclassmen,” Kennedy said. “I’m pleased with where we are and the prospects of this team."
The SEC active career leader with 1,233 career points and 370 assists, Summers was named preseason All-SEC first team by both the coaches and the media and he was named to the Cousy Award watch list for the best point guard in the country.
Summers will be joined in the Ole Miss backcourt by returners Martavious Newby, Anthony Perez and LaDarius White, and newcomers Roderick Lawrence, Stefan Moody and Terence Smith.
White, Moody, a junior college transfer, and Smith, a graduate transfer from UT-Martin, are expected to help Summers with primary ball-handling responsibilities and allow him to play more off the ball this season.
“It’s going to help me a lot,” said Summers of his backcourt mates. “They’re in here working as well. We’re all one. I’m doing whatever coach asks me to do, whether that’s getting my teammates involved more, or being more aggressive and being more of a scorer, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Summers’ accomplishments on the court last season, Kennedy said, have done wonders for his confidence, as he enters his senior campaign focused and confident. Kennedy also noted Summers is stronger and he’s always had to be a physical guard.
In addition to becoming more of a leader, Summers said his focus this offseason was to improve his ball-handling and make his teammates better.
“I want to maximize out my potential and make progress every day, make better decisions every day, basically be a winner,” Summers said.
To return to the NCAA Tournament, Kennedy said, it starts with a repeat performance, if not better performance, from the team’s unquestioned leader of a new-look team.
“I hope he can do what he did last year,” Kennedy said. “If he can do what he did last year, he will go down as one of the best players in Ole Miss history. He averaged 17 (points) and four (assists), and he was an all-league player. I want him to play at that level, and if he does, our team will have an opportunity to be pretty good.”
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