By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Jelan Kendrick looked in the mirror and didn’t like some things about the man he saw looking back.
The first McDonald’s All-American for Ole Miss, Kendrick has taken winding and sometimes turbulent path to playing time but has begun to show the offensive production that helped him achieve that lofty high school status.
After an 11-point performance against South Carolina, he struggled in the Rebels’ double-overtime loss at Alabama but was back in a groove against Mississippi State with 11 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. It wasn’t enough to keep the Bulldogs from winning 70-60 Thursday night.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy will be looking for Kendrick to put two solid games together when the Rebels (14-9, 4-5 SEC) take on Auburn (13-11, 3-7) tonight at 6 at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Auburn defeated Ole Miss 69-68 in double overtime on Jan. 14 at Auburn.
That was one of two starts this season for Kendrick, but he was a pedestrian 2-for-7 shooting in 31 minutes.
Now he hopes a season which started late because of his transfer eligibility issues and his self-inflicted one-game suspension can take an upward turn. He called the MSU game progress but with an asterisk.
“Progress with a loss really doesn’t matter. If I didn’t progress and we won, I’d have been pleased with my actions,” he said. “The loss is unacceptable.”
Kendrick scored nine of his 11 points in the second half. He finished 4-for-10 shooting, and was impressive in his floor game with two assists, two steals and no turnovers.
In the first half Kendrick was used in place of starting point guard Jarvis Summers. Later in the game with Nick Williams struggling, Kendrick and Summers played together.
“Andy Kennedy and (assistant coach) Bill Armstrong always talk about self-evaluation, and I self-evaluated myself and I wasn’t pleased. I wasn’t pleased with my work ethic,” Kendrick said. “I just got in the gym and did what it took me to be a McDonald’s All-American, be a top 10 player in the country, and that was work my butt off. I never was the fastest, I never was the highest jumper, but I always out-worked people.”
Kendrick said he had gotten “comfortable” in Oxford. His game against MSU helped the Ole Miss reserves outscore the Bulldogs’ bench 19-11.
There were other notable performances among the reserves. Freshman guard LaDarius White had appeared in only two of the previous five games but played 14 minutes, and freshman forward Aaron Jones had a bucket, two rebounds and a steal in five minutes.
“I thought they helped us,” said Kennedy, who used just seven players in the 50 minutes of basketball at Alabama last Saturday. “I thought those guys came in and gave us a little bit of life, and hopefully it will be good for their psyche moving forward. We know we’ve got eight games left. Those guys are going to have to help us get what we want.”