By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – When Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy looks down to the other end of the floor tonight, he may forget it’s not an SEC game.
The Rebels begin their fifth basketball season under Kennedy tonight at 7 against Arkansas State, a preseason No. 2 pick in the Sun Belt Conference.
The Red Wolves are in their third season under former LSU coach John Brady, who is assisted this season by former Mississippi State coach Richard Williams.
Brady and Williams were assistant coaches together on the staff of Bob Boyd when Kennedy took a recruiting visit to MSU in the late 1980s.
“I’ve known those guys for a long time, John since the eighth grade. It’s ironic that they’re back together,” said Kennedy, who was a high school All-American at Louisville, Miss. “That’s two Final Four coaches and a lot of knowledge on that bench. I just hope my players are better.”
That may prove true, but the Red Wolves will put a talented team on the floor.
ASU returns four starters from a team that went 17-14 overall, 11-7 and second place in the Sun Belt Conference West Division behind North Texas.
The Red Wolves lose a 15.1 points per game scorer in Brandon Reed, the league’s freshman of the year, but replace him with guard Donald Boone, who led them in scoring two years ago. Boone sat out last season with an injury.
“Maybe where Brandon Reed may have scored in bunches, I think Donald Boone will be a little more consistent, plus I think he’ll be a better defender,” Brady told the Jonesboro Sun.
Junior forward Martavius Adams is the team’s top returning scorer (11.6 ppg) and rebounder (7.5 rpg).
Ole Miss defeated Delta State 86-52 in its lone exhibition contest last Friday.
The Rebels had five players score in double figures, including junior center Terrance Henry, who had 10 points and seven rebounds and four fouls in 17 minutes.
Henry and other Ole Miss post players will be under the microscope as the Rebels try to replace Murphy Holloway, who transferred to South Carolina in the off-season taking 10.1 points and 7.6 rebounds with him.
Kennedy says Henry’s work ethic in the weight room is responsible for his additional 10 pounds, bulk he believes will help him play a more physical game. Henry is currently listed at 6-9, 210.
Life in the lane last season, particularly at Kentucky, let Henry know he needed to become stronger.
“Kentucky, that was one of those reality check games telling me that I needed to gain more weight,” he said. “You’ll see me more on the block this year. Coach is going to be looking for me to score. Everybody’s going to be keyed in on Chris (Warren). He’s one of the SEC’s top returning players, and we’re going to need other people to step up.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600