What’s right with Ole Miss basketball
1. Four freshmen, three sophomores: The talent level in these two classes is far superior to the upperclassmen. For a change, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it isn’t an oncoming train.
2. Keith Carter: He’s the most gifted freshman since John Stroud.
3. Rob Evans and staff: You’ll get no arguments concerning the ability to teach the game, communicate with players, maintain discipline, on-the-floor strategy sessions, honesty or integrity.
4. Effort: Ole Miss practices hard, plays hard. Always.
5. Section R: This is where Keith Carter’s family and friends sit in Tad Smith Coliseum. They are the loudest, most intense group of fans and their enthusiasm is contagious.
6. Sean Tuohy: The newest addition to the radio team of David Kellum and Stan Sandroni. Tuohy, one of the school’s great point guards, is brutally honest and informative. During games, you can see Tuohy, the son of a coach, directing Rebel players with his arms. Clearly, Tuohy is mentally into the game.
What’s not right with Ole Miss basketball
1. Attendance: With the exception of three selected games each season, there is no such thing as homecourt advantage for Ole Miss.
2. Scoring ability: No SEC team is less effective from the field or free throw line than Ole Miss.
3. Expectation level: Before the season, Evans believed this team was capable of postseason play. He maintained this team would not be No. 12 in the 12-team SEC.
Those expectation levels were too high after seniors Andre Burnside and Ervin Garnes dropped in productivity. Postseason (NCAA or NIT) is a realistic possibility in 1997-98. As for today, the Rebels will have to struggle to finish above the No. 12 slot. Even in the best case scenario, Ole Miss is closer to No. 12 than they are to No. 6.
4. Recruiting in Mississippi: Ole Miss has finished a heartbreaking second on two post players that could’ve turned the program around Lafayette County’s Lorenzen Wright (Memphis) and Clinton’s Jarod Ward (Michigan).
But look at the Ole Miss roster. There is one Mississippian, count ’em, one Joezon Darby from Jackson. And he came by the way of junior college. Last year there was one, count ’em, one Cedric Brim from Mooreville. And he was recruited by the previous staff.
How hard could it be for Ole Miss to recruit one player a year from Northeast Mississippi? There’s two juniors LaKendrick Bailey at Myrtle and Nick Coln at Alcorn Central who could play now for the Rebels and would love to represent one of the area’s two home universities.
If not Northeast Mississippi, what about the Delta? You’ve got Keith Dunn (Rosa Fort), VanDarryl Jones (Indianola Gentry), Kirby Oliver (Ruleville) and Vincent Jones (Greenwood). In the Jackson-metro area, you’ve got Quentin Smith (Vicksburg), Mario Bland (Callaway), T.J. Billups (Lanier). Some are already spoken for, but the talent is out there every year.
The past two recruiting classes (particularly from the state of Arkansas) have been good. All that’s left is to recruit a few of Mississippi’s best players over the next couple of seasons.
Chris Burrows covers Ole Miss basketball for the Daily Journal.