OXFORD – In a paraphrase of a classic line by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, Andy Kennedy offers this bit of encouragement to his lightly experienced frontcourt players.
“Just produce baby.”
An Ole Miss team loaded with guards readies itself for a season of high expectations minus its starting center from a year ago, Malcolm White.
Sophomore Murphy Holloway and senior DeAundre Cranston, a second-year junior college transfer, have been through a season of SEC basketball. Heralded freshman Reginald Buckner and junior college transfer DeAngelo Riley have not.
The Rebels, 16-15, 7-9 in the SEC last season amid a rash of major knee injuries and Kennedy’s arrest, were picked second in the Western Division and not on the strength of their big guys. Ole Miss, which plays host to Tulane Saturday in a closed-door scrimmage, returns six guards who have started an SEC game and have scored at least 16 points in an SEC game.
At times Kennedy will use a four-guard lineup. There’s likely to be a traditional power forward and center most of the time, and he has assembled a group of “bigs” that can run and jump.
And he hopes produce.
“We’re going to have to do it by committee early until the right guys emerge. I need consistent production,” Kennedy said. “We need them to earn those minutes. We’re really looking at this as there are 200 minutes to be had. The guys who are going to get the majority of those minutes have to produce.”
The best candidate for early frontcourt production may be Holloway (6-7, 230). He had six double-doubles as a true freshman including five in the team’s last eight games. He averaged 8.4 points and 6.6 rebounds.
Kennedy praises Holloway for his gains in maturity and focus in the off-season.
Cranston (6-9, 260) averaged 3.1 points and 4.2 rebounds. He can be a matchup problems for teams because of his perimeter shooting.
With the guards he has returning, though, Kennedy is looking for more lane scoring from the bigs.
Buckner (6-8, 233) and Riley (6-9, 245) have a skill set that allows them to score in the lane, Kennedy says.
Riley averaged 12 points, eight rebounds and 2.9 blocked shots at Southwest Tennessee Community College last season.
Rated the nation’s No. 29 recruit by Rivals.com, Buckner was Tennessee’s Class A Mr. Basketball after leading Manassas Memphis to the state championship last year. He set the Tennessee high school career record for blocked shots, averaging 8.4 over his last three seasons.
Buckner says he can do more than block shots.
“When I talked with AK he said he recruited me to score, rebound and block shots. He said he wants it all,” Buckner said.
Kennedy is confident he’ll get the production he needs from his frontcourt – at some point in time.
“Reginald Buckner and DeAngelo Riley both have the physical capabilities of making an immediate impact. It’s just a matter of how quickly they can learn what we need them to do day in and day out,” he said.
Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal