By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – Terrance Henry knows what the NIT is like. He’s been there twice in his three-year Ole Miss basketball career.
He also knows this is his last chance to get to the NCAA tournament.
After making a bold prediction Thursday that the Rebels would spend the postseason in the big tournament, Henry told those gathered around his table at SEC Media Day why he believes that will happen.
“We’ve brought focus I’ve not seen since I’ve been here. This group is just focused and ready to play,” he said.
The Rebels last played in the NCAA tournament in 2002. The fatigue of getting close has set in, Henry appears to have taken on the vocal leadership role that Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy would like to see him fill.
“We laid it down to the young guys that they’re going to work hard and do the same things we do,” Henry said. “So far they’ve been following up pretty good.”
He played in all 34 games last year, starting 32. He averaged 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds over the last nine games, with back-to-back double-doubles in the SEC tournament.
The absence of Chris Warren, the third-leading scorer in school history, will see a shift in philosophy at point guard, at least early on.
The starter is expected to be freshman Jarvis Summers. That could change when Jelan Kendrick, the McDonald’s and Parade All-American and a Memphis transfer, becomes eligible at the close of the fall semester.
That doesn’t mean Kennedy won’t get misty-eyed thinking about life without Warren.
“I know I will miss No. 12 at the end of the shot clock,” he said.
The Ole Miss women were picked 12th in the SEC, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed inside the basketball practice facility.
“It’s been our motivation,” senior forward Nikki Byrd said. “The demeanor in the gym has changed. It’s made us hungry. We’re more dialed in, more focused.”
And more youthful. Byrd says the team’s late-summer trip to Canada was important in more ways than one.
“It was about bonding. We needed that experience for the freshmen to come in and play with everybody. We lost a lot of players, but we’ve picked up key players. The freshmen are going to help us a lot,” she said.
Byrd, a 6-foot-4 Brookhaven native, wants to do her part by becoming more consistent. She appeared in 29 games, started 10 last year. She averaged 7.3 points and 5.3 rebounds.
“I’m getting there. I can’t say that I’ve reached that point, but if you say you’ve reached it, you stop,” she said. “I don’t want to stop. I’m still getting there.”