Ole Miss Basketball Preview: #46
Overall Rank: #46
Conference Rank: #5 SEC
2007-08: 24-11, 7-9, 3rd West
2007-08 postseason: NIT
Coach Andy Kennedy has done a great job turning Mississippi into a successful program. During his two years in Oxford, Coach Kennedy has led the team to 45 victories. The 2007-2008 campaign started out great as the Rebels won their first 13 games. The season ended well too when Ole Miss made it to the semifinals of the NIT. The heart of schedule was not so good and it will take a consistent effort for this team to the reach the NCAA Tournament.
The experienced group on the perimeter will help with consistency, but the Rebels have some major contributors to replace in the frontcourt. Dwayne Curtis was the consistent scorer under the basket and averaged 14.9 points and 9.6 rebounds his senior campaign. Kenny Williams was usually the starter next to Curtis. He was not as great of a scorer, but Williams still averaged 8.5 points per game, blocked the occasional shot and did his fair share of dirty work around the basket. When Williams was not on the floor, Jeremy Parnell usually was and now he is gone too. Little used Brian Smith is the only other departing senior, but Rodney Jones, Will Poole and Terrence Watson are not returning this season.
Just about everybody who saw minutes in the frontcourt is gone and that means the group of newcomers better be ready to play. Terrance Henry highlights a decent class. The 6-9 forward will add a dynamic to the team that they have not had in a long time. He has the size of a forward, but the skills of a guard. He will step back and consistently hit the three-pointer and can even lead the fast break. If he is not starting in November, he probably will be by January. It would not be surprising to see Kevin Cantinol, DeAundre Cranston or Murphy Holloway starting at some point either. Cantinol added some muscle during his redshirt season in 2007-2008 and will have to at least clog the paint off the bench. Cranston is the most experienced option after spending a couple years at Daytona Beach Community College in Florida. Cranston is a wide bodied player who is a great rebounder. Holloway, at 6-7 and 215 pounds, is not your typical big man, but he is a good defender who can guard the four and five spots. Due to the lack of depth, he will probably see most of his minutes at the four spot, but ideally he would be a three. Shooting guard Terrico White and point guard Will Bogan are capable players, but they will have some time to learn from the more experienced players on the perimeter.
Who to Watch:
The top five returning scorers are guards. And all of them have starting experience. Chris Warren had an amazing freshman year, leading the team with 15.8 points and 4.5 assists. With a year of experience under his belt, the sky is the limit. And having David Huertas and Eniel Polynice on the wings makes Warren’s job easier. Like Warren, Huertas is a quality three-point shooter, but it is Polynice who will hold the team together this year. The 6-5 junior can get to the basket with ease and find his teammates, but it his ability to rebound that will help out the most this year. Polynice grabbed 5.3 boards per contest last season and with all the questions in the frontcourt, he will need to play a big part on the glass. With sharpshooting Trevor Gaskins and emerging sophomore Zach Graham on the bench, few teams in the SEC can match the talent and depth of the Ole Miss backcourt.
Malcolm White only averaged 6.7 minutes per contest last year as a freshman, but he is the most experienced forward on the roster. White showed some promise early in the conference season, but his minutes decreased as the season progressed. If White and the newcomers struggle to take on a big role, the Rebels will not reach the NCAA Tournament. But if they can at least play a little defense and occasionally score, the backcourt has enough weapons to lead the way.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Chris Warren, Sophomore, Guard, 15.8 points per game
David Huertas, Junior, Guard, 10.7 points per game
Eniel Polynice, Junior, Guard, 10.7 points per game
Malcolm White, Sophomore, Forward, 2.2 points per game
Terrance Henry, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season