A few odds and ends …
– Chris Warren says he and his teammates call beefy freshman DeMarco Cox (6-8, 295) “Black Bear” in honor of the school’s new mascot.
– Warren says he’s added 5-10 pounds to his frame without losing speed. He was not able to add weight last off-season, becuase he was coming off knee surgery and just trying to get back to his regular weight. He’s listed at 5-10, 168.
– Andy Kennedy says Cox has a better work ethic than he’s ever seen from a high school post player and that work ethic combined with his own skill will allow Cox to become “a star.” First, however, Cox will have to work his way into the playing rotation in the frontcourt, something Kennedy expects to happen.
– Indiana transfer Nick Williams has the second-loudest voice in the gym, Kennedy says, with Kennedy’s being the loudest. He calls Williams, who started 29 games at IU two years ago, a veteran and a leader. That should help out with Warren, who has been called on two be more vocal. By his own admission Warren will pick his spots. “I have guys attention. They know that when I speak what I have to say is important.” Warren says that while Williams is a talker, Trevor Gaskins still gets his words in.
– Kennedy: “I like my team. We have the pieces, and giving the ball to the best point guard in the league is a good place to start.”
– Kennedy says he was not surprised to see Mississippi State voted No. 1 in the West based on returning guards Ravern Johnson and Dee Bost and the potential of Renardo Sidney in the frontcourt. “We all will have to depend on new players, and whoever transitions the earliest will emerge.”
– On the women’s side, Renee Ladner, in trying to replace Bianca Thomas, the SEC’s leading scorer last year with 20.9 points per game, has moved SEC assist leader Kayla Melson to the 2 guard and will put true freshman Valencia McFarland at the point. Ladner likes McFarland’s speed and intensity and says she is “game ready.”
– Ladner’s top returning post player is 6-4 junior Nikki Byrd, who averaged 6.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 32 games last year. Her advice to Byrd in the off-season was this: “Don’t get an apartment.” The gist of the message was that Byrd was capable of much more. She’d shown flashes of brilliance but had also taken off for plays and possessions, and Ladner encouraged Byrd to consider her effort or consider transferring. Ladner says Byrd has responded by reporting in the best shape of her life. Her effort is consistent to the point of pressing and trying to do too much, not a bad problem to have.