The DM Updates on Basketball
(Jacob Threadgill)When initial plans for the basketball practice facility were announced more than a year ago, there were many who speculated the project would never come to fruition- but Ole Miss men's basketball coach Andy Kennedy was not one of them.
"A lot of people were wondering if this was going to be a reality, and we never doubted that it was," he said. "We're just pleased that we can finally see progress."
The UMAA Foundation's acceptance of Yates Construction's $ 10.6 million bid for the 51,000 square foot facility disproved the doubters and came at the approval of Kennedy.
"I could not be more excited that Yates Construction is handling that development," Kennedy said. "They are well respected and have done a lot of great work on our campus already. They're working on the law school, we're less than a mile down the road, and so we'll always know where to find them. Our expectation is that over the next two weeks we'll start seeing some new progress."
Incoming freshmen Terrence Henry, Will Bogan and Terrico White were enrolled for the first session of summer school and have gone through conditioning and pick-up games with the rest of the Rebels.
With any luck, freshman forward Murphy Holloway and JUCO transfer forward DeAundre Cranston will be able to join them for the second session. At the start of the second session on Thursday, Kennedy said the staff was still waiting on grades to get them enrolled.
"We can't do anything until we get the grades, so we're at the mercy of the schools in which they are currently at," he said.
It appears 6-foot-5 guard Brandon Wilson will have to wait to join his high school teammate, Henry in Oxford. Wilson is expected to enroll at Jones Community College in Ellisville, Miss. after failing to qualify academically out of Carroll High School in Monroe, La.
Kennedy is not able to spend any time on the court with his team until the start of individual instruction periods in July, but he has already been impressed with what he has seen from Henry, Bogan and White.
"They are great kids that are working hard," Kennedy said. "We're getting grades back from the first session, they've all done well, and they're working hard at their weight training and conditioning in the areas that we can be involved. I've been really pleased with the transition they have made."
Henry, Holloway and Cranston will be counted on to provide an immediate impact, as the Rebels' only return sophomore Malcolm White and red shirt freshman Kevin Cantinol along the frontcourt.
"There is a lot of opportunity for Terrence Henry, Murphy and DeAundre," Kennedy said. "Hopefully we can get them in here this summer and start to get them acclimated to just the change in life from going from one place to another."
Bogan will have a chance to fill the void left by Brian Smith's graduation as the back up to starting point guard Chris Warren. White will have to find playing time with returning wing players David Huertas, Eniel Polynice, Zach Graham and Trevor Gaskins.
"With the returning guys we have in the perimeter, that should take some pressure off of Terrico and Will," Kennedy said.
Sorting out the Schedule
Kennedy and staff have completed the non-conference schedule and are awaiting the SEC portion, which will be announced in late July.
"We set it up to where we think it will prepare us for the rigors of league play," Kennedy said. "It will be highlighted with a home date against West Virginia. Coach Huggins and I, obviously our relationship goes way back, so we've decided to play a home and home series. He will come to Oxford in early December."
In addition to hosting the Mountaineers, Ole Miss will have home dates against South Alabama, Central Florida and open the season against former LSU head coach John Brady and his Arkansas State Red Wolves.
The Rebels will travel to Albuquerque to finish a home and home series with New Mexico and make up last season's cancelled date at the University of New Orleans. The rest of the non-conference schedule includes a neutral site game against Southern Miss in Biloxi, in the second year of a three-year series. The Rebels will also take place in an exemption tournament in Daytona Beach, Fla. where they are scheduled to play Marshall, Utah and a third team that will be determined on the Rebels' performance.
Kennedy will return to the city of his former job to take on Louisville as a part of the Big East / SEC showdown in Cincinnati as apart of an ESPN broadcast.
Unlike last season where the Rebels went almost the whole month of December without playing a game in Oxford, the Rebels will have to play at Tad Smith Colisieum while the student body is off for winter break.
"We couldn't make it work as efficiently as we did last year as we will have a few home games sprinkled in December," Kennedy said. "We've always tried to be cognizant of the face that we want to schedule as many games as we can around football weekends, and we also want to try to play as many as we can when our student are still on campus."