By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – It’s quite early in the college basketball season, but there’s a lot of happiness at Ole Miss right now.
Marshall Henderson is happy to be in town, and Murphy Holloway is happy to have him.
“I love being here at Ole Miss,” said Henderson, last year’s junior college player of the year, after scoring 22 points in his Rebels debut, a 93-57 win over Mississippi Valley State on Friday. “It’s a great support system here in the community of Oxford. It’s great knowing that nationwide, anyone who has anything to do with Ole Miss is going to start getting involved with this basketball team.”
While Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy ponders how to blend a diverse group of newcomers into roles around four returning starters Henderson is clearly the centerpiece.
Henderson and the Rebels are back in action tonight at 7 at Tad Smith Coliseum against Coastal Carolina.
Coastal returns two starters from a team that was 19-12, 12-6 in the Big South Conference. The Chanticleers opened with a 74-70 overtime home win against Akron.
Billed as a shooter, Henderson has demonstrated a variety of skills in a solid floor game. But most importantly, in an exhibition and a regular season game, he’s been that shooter.
He was 5 for 12 from 3-point range against Division II Montevallo and 5 for 11 against Valley.
“That’s why we brought him here. Obviously we were deficient in our shooting last year,” Kennedy said. “We needed to remedy that. He’s a good remedy.”
Upon Henderson’s arrival in the summer, Holloway didn’t know what to make of his new teammate’s hyperactive personality. Maybe Kennedy didn’t either.
“Coach told us to keep an eye on him,” Holloway said.
Holloway has done that and has been impressed.
“I probably told him three times, ‘You’re going to take us there. You’re going to take us there,’” Holloway said.
“There” is the NCAA tournament, an event held without the Rebels on an annual basis since 2002.
The pursuit of the goal continues against Coastal Carolina as Kennedy ponders playing rotations, minutes and chemistry.
Anthony Perez, a 6-foot-9 small forward, and guards Martavious Newby and Derrick Millinghaus have all made a case for early playing time. Junior college transfer Jason Carter, 6-8 and described by Kennedy as a 3-point matchup problem for opponents, remains suspended.
“We’ve got seven returners. I’ve got a reasonable feel for those seven guys,” Kennedy said. “I’m really trying to figure our where we can use these new guys.”