By Parrish Alford
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Andy Kennedy has made two public appearances to discuss his 2013-2014 Ole Miss basketball team.
He may be in need of a third or more.
Most questions in a campus press conference last week centered on suspended guard Marshall Henderson and when the defending SEC scoring champ will return to help the 2013 SEC tournament champion Rebels.
That didn’t change Wednesday at SEC Basketball Media Days.
There’s no end in sight for Henderson’s suspension. Kennedy has said that Henderson will definitely miss games.
When and how many are unanswered questions in a situation Kennedy calls “fluid,” before describing a player on track to become a team member in good standing.
“I’ve been proud of the fact that he’s owned it, and he’s done the things that have been demanded of him,” he said.
As far as preseason media coverage goes, talk of Henderson has dominated each session. There’s been little interest in or time for other topics.
Kennedy handles each Henderson inquiry with the ease and one-liners that have made him a favorite of SEC media.
At a time when Kennedy could be talking more about a school-record tying 27 wins and the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance in more than a decade, he’s fielding questions about a player known as much for his uncoventional behavior as his 20.1-points per game scoring average.
“That’s a good question,” he says. “Obviously Marshall was an integral part. He was the SEC tournament most valuable player and an integral part of us having the opportunity to win 27 games and be a champion.
“The things he’s done in the off-season may have taken away from the fact that these guys accomplished a lot.”
Five of the top eight players from that team return. Rebounders and post defenders like Murphy Holloway and Reggie Buckner do not, and as this year’s team will create a new frontcourt identity with Aaron Jones and Demarco Cox, two veterans on the mend, plus newcomers Sebastain Saiz and Dwight Coleby.
“This has not been a distraction internally,” Kennedy said. “It’s something we live with day in and day out.”
Kennedy says Ole Miss players have shown no signs that Henderson’s personality and the attention that have followed it have been an issue.
“This is a new season,” said junior point guard Jarvis Summers, who accompanied Kennedy at the downtown Westin hotel. “We don’t talk to him about that. We just move forward and focus on positive things. He made a mistake, but he’s real positive right now. He’s got his mind on track. Everything’s going to be OK.”