By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
The Rebels are on the road, and Jelan Kendrick – it appears – is a part of the traveling party.
Following a bizarre postgame episode on the heels of a blowout loss Thursday night, Ole Miss faces No. 1 Kentucky today with questions not about whether the the Rebels can earn an NCAA tournament bid but whether they can survive the final five games.
Technically, a 102-76 loss to Vanderbilt did not sign the death warrant on NCAA chances for Ole Miss.
There is basketball still to play. With five games left, a 5-6 SEC team could, technically, become a 10-6 team. The reality is that isn’t likely to happen.
Kendrick engaged in a profanity-laced tirade against teammate Reggie Buckner in the tunnel leading to the locker room following the Vanderbilt game.
Buckner made it to the locker room, Kendrick did not. He stood in the tunnel as media and other game-worker personnel gathered and watched and talked out loud almost as if to himself since the object of his frustration had already gone inside.
He didn’t scream at the top of his lungs, but he refused to be consoled, and he definitely refused to enter the locker room – even at the request and encouragement of head coach Andy Kennedy.
Kendrick wandered near the coliseum exit and looked very much like he was considering leaving the building in full uniform.
Generally speaking, Kendrick’s accusation was that Buckner didn’t play hard enough against Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli, 6-foot-11, 250.
Buckner eventually came out of the locker room and approached Kendrick, but they were separated before anything physical occurred.
So the physical was avoided Thursday night, but the Rebels may not be so fortunate from an emotional standpoint.
Kendrick is the first McDonald’s All-American to sign with Ole Miss, but he did so only after leaving the University of Memphis. Media reports said he was dismissed for his inability to get along with teammates.
He was accepted at Ole Miss in December of 2010 and was eligible for game competition at the posting of fall-semester grades, although his time away was extended when he was suspended for the Louisiana-Lafayette game for what Kennedy described as immature conduct.
Bringing Kendrick, a 6-foot-7 guard with strong passing and ball-handling skills, into the program was not a hard decision. Second chances often work to benefit the athlete and the new program.
The harder decision for Kennedy, though, will be deciding when or if it’s necessary to abort this restoration project.
If Kendrick was showing up in arrest reports, it might be an easier decision. That isn’t the case.
While he remains part of the program you have to wonder what Buckner and the other players are thinking.
Buckner’s effort against Vanderbilt may be debatable, but how hard is he going to play for Kendrick in the weeks to come?
Another issue to consider is Kendrick’s unwillingness to submit to any sort of authority.
Typically, discipline plays out in private. That’s fine as long as it plays out.
If it doesn’t, a dangerous message is sent, and the boundaries of what is acceptable are blurred.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford @journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.
The Ole Miss athletics media relations staff issued a statement from basketball player Jelan Kendrick Friday regarding his profanity-laced tirade against teammate Reggie Buckner following the Rebels’ 102-76 loss to Vanderbilt Thursday evening: “I want to apologize for my behavior after the game last night. It was a frustrating night, and I let my emotions get the best of me. My language was unacceptable. As a team, we have put this behind us and are ready to finish the season strong.”
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy did not comment in the statement, so Kendrick – who was held out of a game earlier this season appears to be a team member in good standing as the Rebels travel to face No. 1 Kentucky today.