By David Brandt
AP Sports Writer
OXFORD – Marshall Henderson is still taking, and sometimes making, a large chunk of shots for Ole Miss this season.
Coach Andy Kennedy is fine with that arrangement. After all, the 6-foot-2 Henderson’s scoring ability is a huge reason Ole Miss made the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 2002.
But with Henderson off to a relatively slow start, averaging 17.9 points per game on just 35.3 percent shooting, others have stepped up as the Rebels (7-2) inch closer to Southeastern Conference play. Ole Miss hosts Louisiana-Monroe (3-2) on Wednesday.
Jarvis Summers has taken the biggest step forward, averaging 16.6 points per game. The 6-foot-3 junior has been much more aggressive looking for his shot and has also been efficient, shooting 53.4 percent from the field, including 54.5 percent from 3-point range.
He’s also the team’s point guard, leading the Rebels with more than three assists per game.
“Jarvis Summers continues to be our MVP, making big plays for us throughout the course of the game,” Kennedy said.
He led the Rebels with 25 points in a 72-63 victory over Middle Tennessee State on Saturday and had 28 earlier this year against Troy. His last-second 3-pointer in regulation forced overtime against then-No. 13 Oregon, though the Rebels eventually lost 115-105.
Henderson expected Summers’ emergence this season.
“Jarvis is the point guard, a leader, and he shows up every day with the same mindset,” Henderson said. “You always know what you’re getting with Jarvis Summers. That’s a quality that we want everyone on our team to have.”
Sophomore Derrick Millinghaus has also been impressive, averaging nearly 13 points per game. That’s more than double his 5.3 points per game average from a year ago.
Demarco Cox and Aaron Jones are providing solid post defense, filling much of the void left by the departures of seniors Murphy Holloway and Reggie Buckner.
But the pair’s offensive production has been spotty. Kennedy says Jones and Cox aren’t natural scorers, but the guards must find ways to get them involved.
“There’s nobody that we’re going to pick up on the waiver wire,” Kennedy said. “We’ve got to continue to adjust, give them some angles. We’ve got to develop some confidence and that’s difficult to do when you’re missing point blank shots.”
It’s certainly a work in progress, but there’s been enough improvement that the Rebels have survived Henderson’s erratic start to the season.
He was suspended for the opener against Troy — and will also miss the team’s first two SEC games in January — because of poor on-and off-the-court behavior last season.
But his behavior has been fine so far this season. The problem is his shot selection.
Henderson has nearly limitless range on his jumper, but Kennedy says that can sometimes lead to overconfidence.
Henderson achieved a good balance in the Rebels’ victory against Middle Tennessee, making 4 of 9 3-pointers, including a crucial one with 30 seconds remaining. The decisive shot wasn’t necessarily in the flow of the offense, but Kennedy has few complaints when Henderson’s aim finds the bottom of the net.
“I understand there’s give and take and you’ve got to allow him to have the freedom in those moments,” Kennedy said. “I thought he did a good job of playing within the team concept.”
Summers said there’s never any animosity about Henderson’s shot selection or confidence.
“Any shot Marshall takes, I feel like it’s going in,” Summers said. “He puts the work in. We’re comfortable with him shooting shots. He did a lot for us last year and he’s still doing it.”