REBELS’ BEST DAYS ON THE COURT STILL AHEAD OF THEM

CATEGORY: Basketball

AUTHOR: BURROW

REBELS’ BEST DAYS ON THE COURT STILL AHEAD OF THEM

Ole Miss basketball fans traditionally plead for a “big man”. Stop whining. Rob Evans hears you and something is being done about it.

Johnnie Rogers is where it starts. Rogers is a 6-9 transfer from Jackson State sitting out the season before becoming eligible. Since the season began, Rogers has gained 20-plus pounds (up to 205) and hasn’t lost a step in running the floor.

How good is he? Well, he’s not as good as Mississippi State’s Erick Dampier, Tennessee’s Steve Hamer or Alabama’s Roy Rogers. But he’s better, much better than the recently departed Andre Burnside. He can block, or alter, shots as well as possessing good hands and speed.

I’ve seen him practice and if eligible, he’d be getting 15-20 minutes per game, be in the five-five (points-rebounds) category. He’d be the first guy to give Anthony Boone and Jason Smith a breather. Better yet, the Laurel native should be even better by next season.

“It’s amazing how fast he’s coming on and he’s going to be a solid player,” Evans said. “He’s very important in terms of height and ability inside. If we can recruit a couple of freshmen that can bang, we’re going to be a better and deeper team inside.”

While coaches aren’t permitted to discuss recruiting on the record, it’s no secret the coaching staff is working hard in the Delta looking for “freshmen that can bang”.

Indianola Gentry’s VanDarryl Jones (6-9, 230), Greenwood’s Vincent Jones (6-9, 220) and Ruleville’s Kirby Oliver (6-6, 225) are among the state’s best players from that region. Gerald Snider’s Recruiting Service, a Northeast Mississippi-based service, rates them No. 4-7-12, respectively, among the state’s best recruits.

“Our best days are still down the road, but we’re getting there,” Evans said. “Having Johnnie ready by next year would definitely be a step in the right direction.”

Women’s basketball: Does anybody in America play a tougher schedule than No. 20 Ole Miss this week? Van Chancellor’s ladies host No. 3 Tennessee Sunday, No. 1 Georgia on Wednesday and visit No. 21 Florida on Saturday.

“Those rankings are too low. Tennessee ought to be No. 2 and Florida ought to be in the top 15,” Chancellor said. “We’ve got Southern Miss, Arkansas and (Mississippi) State to end the year. I’ve never had anything like it in all my years of coaching.”

Ole Miss is 14-5, 3-2 in the SEC and already hold key wins over Memphis, Southern Miss, Vanderbilt and Alabama. Obviously, if Chancellor’s crew can clip one of the next three it’s big. If they clip two or sweep all three the NCAA Tournament bid would be a lock.

Baseball: The SEC preseason coach’s poll hasn’t been officially released yet, but here’s a sneak preview. Ole Miss is picked last in the SEC Western Division.

“That’s great. Being picked last is the best thing that can happen to us,” said head coach Donnie Kessinger, before smiling and quickly adding, “providing they’re not right.”

Kessinger agrees with the preseason evaluation. “We lost eight guys to the pros, including three of our top four pitchers. I’d pick us last, too. But that gives us a tremendous opportunity to fool people.”

Chris Burrows covers Ole Miss athletics for the Daily Journal.

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