Kennedy Challenges Burnett to Assume Leadership Role
Nov. 14, 2017

By Brian Scott Rippee,

He’s the oldest man in uniform most nights when he suits up. At 23-years old, and soon to be 24 in January, Ole Miss shooting guard Deandre Burnett is being called upon by his head coach to grab ahold of his team’s locker room, one filled with young talent and a team capable of going to heights the program hasn’t seen in some time.

“As the oldest guy on the floor, he has to be more open and loud and take more ownership of the locker room,” Andy Kennedy said. “I am going to keep challenging him to do so.”

He’s already done so to the extent of accepting a bench role in the season’s first two games as a byproduct of a crowded backcourt with a lot of young talent. Burnett doesn’t mind, this is his last season. He wants to go to the NCAA Tournament and make a run, at whatever cost that may come.

“AK (Kennedy) has always told me my role hasn’t changed just because I am coming off the bench,” Burnett. “We have a lot of good guards. Someone has to come off the bench so I feel like I was the best guy for that job, sacrificing for the team. I am fine with it. We have a good team, and I don’t mind coming off the bench.”

The offense went through Burnett often last year. He averaged 16.5 points per game. He made 131 shots on 39 attempts, just under 36 percent from the field. By comparison, he shot 37.6 percent from three-point range. The issue? Being efficient.

Burnett scored 17 points on 4-of-8 shooting in Monday’s win over Eastern Kentucky, a step in the right direction. The ball has been in his hands in the final minutes of both games. There’s a trust there between Kennedy and his most experienced player.

“It’s more efficient than I was last year,” Burnett said. “That was the plan was for me to be more efficient this year. That is the biggest takeaway from last year was winning more games and me being more efficient. This year, we are 2-0 and I have been more efficient. It’s a good start.”

Kennedy still wants more out of Burnett. He’d like for Burnett to become a better on-ball defender, and the smartest player on the floor.

“Dre (Burnett) has to be an angles master,” Kennedy said. “He has to always be thinking one step ahead of the game because physically, he is not going to be able to make that difference up. He knows that. I tell him literally 17 times a day.”

Burnett knows this team can be the best he’s played on and knows it’s a matter of the pieces meshing. He’s willing to accept any role that helps accomplish that.

“We have a lot of new guys out there,” Burnett said. “Everybody is just settling in and getting used to each other. We had 30 practices, but it is not like the game. Once we get settled in we will play even more together because we have a very unselfish group.”

His accepting a new and unfamiliar role is a testament to the unselfishness he referred to.

Burnett’s had a journey of a career. It began at Miami with flashes of success but was dampened by injuries. He came to Ole Miss looking to be Kennedy’s next great volume scorer. He’s on his way to doing that, while also becoming a mentor to young players like Devontae Shuler and Breein Tyree.

“I try to do that a lot,” Burnett said. “The young guys are on my team a lot in practice so I try to talk them through where they need to be on the court. I just have to understand they are new to this and do my best to lead them.”



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