From John Davis, good stuff here in a Q-and-A with Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy:
This week’s Q & A is with Ole Miss men’s basketball coach Andy Kennedy. He is preparing his team for the 2014-15 season opener. Here are his thoughts on the first two weeks of practice.
John Davis: We’ve talked in the preseason about the team…how the team could be. Now we have 10 days of practice to see where the team is. How has it gone?
Andy Kennedy: It’s good. Again, I feel like this group is further along because introduced a lot of the same things we’re doing from a base, principal standpoint. I feel like we’re a little further along. I like this group because we’re playing veteran guys and we have a lot of guys that are competing for minutes; so, it’s been good day in and day out competition. There are a lot of things … we have to get in great basketball shape. When you’re not in great shape early, at the end of practice, you can loose some concentration and some focus. Those are things that will come in time. I have been pleased with their approach. And it’s a group that competes in practice.
Davis: How does practice go now that you’re in a weekly mode?
Kennedy: We can go 20 hours and we have to give one off day per seven.
Davis: What is your average practice time?
Kennedy: The rule states that 42 days prior to your first game, which was October 3rd, you get 30 practice days in that time. You can’t exceed 20 hours per week of any activity. We obviously stay within those guidelines. We’ve had a couple of bumps and bruises. Jarvis had a little bit of a contusion on his lower leg, so he has missed a couple of days of practice. It’s given me a little flexibility to take more time off in dealing with a number of the injuries. Our practices are really typical of this time of year, just trying to figure out what is the strength of this team, trying to organize a game plan that fits that strength on both sides of the ball.
Davis: Who do you kind of see a little different than you did at the end of the Bahamas trip?
Kennedy: Nothing has really changed other than I’m trying to get more comfortable with the new guys and trying to understand how I can do a good job to put them in a position to be successful. Terry Brutus has still not been cleared. We’re probably a few weeks away from that. He’s had a few setbacks, but he’s really come on strong as of late. He’s not ready for contact yet. So I have five post guys in MJ (Rhett) and AJ (Jones), our two seniors and Sebastian (Saiz) and (Dwight) Coleby, our two sophomores. Then we have Marcanvis Hymon. We call him KG. Those five guys compete every day, and if you were to evaluate them every day, one through five, that number changes as to who performed the best and who performed fifth. That’s great competition. Then Jarvis is the only all-league guy in the room. We have an understanding of what he’s capable of, but at the same time, we still need to push him to improve. He had a little bit of an injury that we hope he is back from in a couple of days. It gives those guys a lot of reps, especially those new guys in (Stefan) Moody, in Terence Smith and Rod Lawrence.
Davis: How has your staff come together now that you’re in full practice mode? Do you find yourself in a good combination with everybody? Only Bill Armstrong is back from last year.
Kennedy: With Tony Medlock every day is a new day. For instance, at the end of (Monday’s) practice, we were trying to introduce some new stuff that we haven’t done before as it relates to some zone principals, stuff that he hasn’t heard me talk about other than as a staff when talk about preparation for it. There will be a learning curve most definitely. Todd (Abernethy), as well. He’s been gone a number of years, but he did play for me. He has an understanding of my personality and my expectation and a lot of the verbiage we use day in and day out.
Davis: How has (Abernethy) developed? He is the young guy in terms of coaching. I know that Tony has been around; he’s just not as used to you.
Kennedy: Todd…I just want him to be what he is and that’s just an extension of the players. He understands it, having played professionally as of last year or the year before. For him it’s just about energy and player development and spending time with these guys and really understanding that he’s been on both sides of it.
Davis: Are you going to go and play another team before the exhibition opener?
Kennedy: We are going to go and scrimmage Middle Tennessee State the weekend of the Auburn game…I believe November 2nd. We will scrimmage at Middle.
Davis: And you’re excited to see how you do against a college team for the first team since the Bahamas trip wasn’t against one.
Kennedy: It’s a different deal and it will be structured. There will be game-like scenarios, but there will be a lot of different structured things. My goal in these things – and it’s a reason I want to deal with guys that have the same objectives – is to give everybody opportunities, treat it like an exhibition game. I want to get film. I want to get teachable moments for every kid on the team. You want to win anytime you play, but the objective is to play all the guys that will be healthy at that time and to try and learn and use it as a learning experience. You got a dress rehearsal against Delta State and then it’s for real. In our sport it comes about every three days; you have to get ready.
Davis: I guess that’s the other thing you try and stress through tough practices…is that this is a grind.
Kennedy: No question. One of the things I’ve tried and be honest with you guys up front, from jump, is with an older group; you would hope they already understand that. I’ve only got one true freshman on my team. I’ve got five newcomers that have never been through it at this level or under these set of circumstances; but I’ve only got one true freshman that has no idea what the next day holds. With that, you would hope that you could move quicker. That coupled with the experience that we had in the summer, I do feel like we are a little further along. I’m just trying to make sure that the guys don’t feel like they’re already into a mid-December grind because of all the basketball that we’ve gotten under our belts. I’m trying to be cognizant of that, making sure that we get the proper rest.
Davis: What has the football phenomena done for you and for basketball? I know you’ve had some recruits on the sidelines and always talked about football with us, but what has this 6-0 start done for the basketball team?
Kennedy: We all play for the same team. We’re all Ole Miss, so anything that can strengthen the brand is good. Our volleyball team, for instance, started out 13…14-0. I’m pulling for those girls and I’m pulling for coach (Steven McRoberts) and what he’s been able to accomplish. Obviously that doesn’t get the national recognition as to what football has done. With the 24-hour sports channels, you’re getting inundated with Ole Miss. and Ole Miss. College GameDay. There’s been a lot of positive reflection on our university and our athletic department. Those are all very, very positive, because whatever strengthens the brand helps us all.
Davis: The ESPN College GameDay experience was pretty fun, but can you even put into words what you saw there?
Kennedy: I thought it was a home run. Obviously the weather was a hit, and there was nothing we could do about that. You could tell that the people putting it on were very excited to be here because they had heard so much about game day experience in the Grove and I don’t think we disappointed them in that regard. Then to go out and beat an Alabama team – that doesn’t happen every year. Under the circumstances of the post game celebrations, it was really one of those things you don’t get to experience very often.