By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Andy Kennedy and three other coaches stood on the riser behind the podium at the Times Square hotel.
They were all getting ready for the NIT semifinals, and, by way of introduction, the emcee was establishing “street cred” for each team.
He described Kennedy’s Ole Miss team as one that would most certainly be in the NCAA tournament next season.
He reached that conclusion, of course, by studying a roster that included only one senior on a 24-11 team, and that senior had provided limited impact.
As many as four underclassmen will not return to that roster, however, and it could look very different next year.
Terrico White, the team’s second-leading scorer, has until Saturday to fish or cut bait. The expectation is that he will remain in the NBA draft.
Eniel Polynice announced he was ready to begin his professional career, a curious decision for a player whose best basketball was two years ago. Given the way Polynice’s season finished, with reduced minutes, a suspension and as a team distraction at an inopportune time, his parting was likely mutual.
The future of first-year junior college transfer DeAngelo Riley remains unclear. Discussions to determine the best interests of Riley and the program continue, Kennedy says.
This type of attrition you can plan for.
The Murphy Holloway announcement, you cannot.
In a span of 48 hours late last week it became apparent to Kennedy that his best player at an already thin position, the frontcourt, was leaving.
A news report out of Charleston surfaced Tuesday that linked Holloway to Clemson, farther away from his Irmo, S.C., home than he’d like to be to help care for his six-month old daughter. Holloway’s home is minutes from Columbia and SEC East foe South Carolina.
It is not yet known if Kennedy will restrict him from transferring there. No such restriction was placed on former center Malcolm White, who transferred for a less noble reason and ended up at West rival LSU. Kennedy may be re-thinking that decision.
Minus Holloway and perhaps Riley, Ole Miss likely goes into the season with a still-developing sophomore, and two freshmen who haven’t played a lick. That’s your post game.
Maybe Terrance Henry puts on some weight and plays productive minutes for longer stretches against bigger players down low. He creates some matchup problems and will definitely be in the mix.
As a freshman, Reggie Buckner showed dominant shot-blocking skills and an improving offensive game. He’s not a complete player yet.
Fall-period signee Demarco Cox is a big body and could become the Rebels’ first true back-to-the-basket scoring option since Dewayne Curtis.
Spring-period signee Isaiah Massey will take on a heavier role than he might have thought two weeks ago.
These are talented freshmen, but newcomers, no matter how talented, go through a period of acclimation.
Until the new guys know which end is up, Ole Miss will remain a guard-oriented team that needs its athletes to shoot, penetrate, involve teammates, defend and rebound. Pretty much everything.
But if the Rebels are going to establish their own credentials next season that’s the way it’s shaping up.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.