By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Andy Kennedy wasn’t invited to the meeting, but his message was discussed.
Kennedy has challenged his Ole Miss upperclassmen to rise up in their production, but so far the message hasn’t taken hold.
“Somebody has to step up and do it,” said senior small forward Terrance Henry, the most likely candidate, as he described the topic of the players-only meeting.
When you take Chris Warren, the third-leading scorer in program history, out of the equation it’s hard to imagine the team being better.
However, it wasn’t hard to imagine Ole Miss playing its way into the NCAA tournament conversation once Murphy Holloway was ruled eligible following his transfer back to Ole Miss from South Carolina.
The real roadmap to getting to the NCAA tournament would have been to have Holloway as part of last year’s team along with Warren, but with issues of chemistry and attrition through the years, the Rebels haven’t been able to get their best pieces and parts together. Holloway’s transfer after the 2010 season is another example.
Now, Holloway, a dynamic rebounder is out, though he’s expected to play Saturday in the SEC opener at LSU.
Who’s the man?
Even when Holloway returns that doesn’t solve the scoring problems. That’s not what he does. He may get 15 points one night, but it’s with his energy on the glass. He’s not a guy whose going to create his own shot.
Henry is that guy. He has the skill set to shoot the 3 and to score off the dribble. Henry has had flashes of greatness, but his 11.6-points scoring average is a career high. It’s unrealistic to believe he’ll become much more in the back half of his final season.
“I’m not trying to force anything. I’m just trying to let the game come to me,” Henry said.
Sometimes it comes, but Henry, while the most likely candidate, shouldn’t be the only candidate.
Though he’s a great defender, there’s little pulse from Reggie Buckner on offense, and Dundrecous Nelson is erratic. Nick Williams had 12 points and five rebounds against Louisiana-Lafayette, but that was four games ago. He’s averaged 5.25 points since.
These players plus Zach Graham formed the nucleus of a good supporting cast for Warren on a team that won 20 games last year.
When Holloway was healthy Ole Miss had the look of a team that could improve and hit its peak later in the season, especially when freshmen LaDarius White and Jelan Kendrick – the Memphis transfer and McDonald’s All-American – became eligible at the close of the fall semester.
But White is feeling his way around, and Kendrick’s inability to live in harmony with the coaching staff makes one wonder if he’ll be a factor this year or ever.
The focus shouldn’t be on the freshmen anyway. They should be able to have the natural period of acclimation. There are enough veterans on the team to allow for that.
That is, if a few of them embrace the different roles they’ve been handed and make the season less of the grind it’s becoming.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.