By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – It seemed to be a foregone conclusion, but Marshall Henderson was named the junior college national player of the year last week.
When you average 19.6 points and your team goes 36-0 en route to the national championship, you’re a pretty strong contender.
That news didn’t send shock waves across the college basketball landscape, but it’s significance was not lost around the basketball offices at Ole Miss, with whom Henderson signed last month.
Previous winners of this award have gone on to big success at the college level. Perhaps Henderson will. The Rebels certainly need his skill set.
Last year for Ole Miss was the first after the Chris Warren Era of rapid-fire 3-point shots, and the Rebels scared no one from the perimeter.
Maybe Marshall Henderson will be the next big thing, the next face of hope in the Rebels’ on-going quest to reach the NCAA tournament.
More likely Henderson will be a key component on a team that returns a number of other key components, like experience at the front court, at point guard and a fifth-year senior who can do a number of things well.
Basketball season is way down the calendar from now, but the late-period recruiting further strengthened an Ole Miss class that signed Rivals four-star guard Martavious Newby and 6-9 shooting forward Anthony Cortesia last December.
The buzz word for Ole Miss basketball for 2012-13 is “opportunity.”
The recruiting and experience play into that, obviously, but just as important may be what’s happening around the Rebels in the SEC.
Mississippi State and LSU both have new coaches and rosters where talented players left with eligibility remaining.
Auburn was kicking experienced players off the team just last week. Vanderbilt will have a very different roster than it did last year.
If your opponent is weakened while you gain strength, that’s good, right?
“All we can really focus on are the things we can control,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “For me, that is dealing with our personnel issues moving forward. It’s a long time between now and when we start playing SEC teams. A lot can transpire.”
With changes in SEC scheduling soon to be announced it’s not known who or how often Ole Miss will play league teams.
A transitioning SEC isn’t the basis for setting goals when practice begins, but it can’t hurt.
When you’re trying to break through the important barrier that the Rebels are, you want all intangibles in your favor.
Combined with an influx of talent, improved chemistry and Kennedy’s inward focus, the intangibles could play a part in getting Ole Miss over the hump.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@ journalinc.com.) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.