By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – The biggest bullet point in the news of Murphy Holloway’s second chance at his first SEC school came this week:
He can play right away.
Though he was cleared by the NCAA on Oct. 14, the SEC still had to put its stamp of approval on his waiver request, or he’d have to sit out this season at Ole Miss.
That came on Wednesday and removed the last hurdle between Holloway, who has grown into a physical, 6-foot-7, 240-pound frontcourt player, and the Rebels’ Nov. 11 season opener against Louisiana-Monroe.
“Ole Miss basketball got better yesterday,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
At the SEC tournament in Atlanta last March, Holloway began to share with some of his former teammates his desire to transfer back to Ole Miss.
“What did I think when I heard that?” asked senior forward Terrance Henry, repeating a question. “That it’s going to be a hell of a year.”
That confidence led Henry to make a bold prediction at SEC Media Day on Thursday regarding the Rebels’ nine-year NCAA tournament drought, the longest in the SEC.
“It will end. It’s going to end this year,” he said.
The Rebels finished 20-14 last year, 7-9 in the SEC and lost in the first round of the NIT, their fourth NIT trip under Kennedy.
Holloway was in Kennedy’s second signing class.
He played two seasons at Ole Miss but told Kennedy in May of 2010 he was transferring closer to his Irmo, S.C., home to be near his daughter. That place turned out to be the University of South Carolina in nearby Columbia.
Holloway was not granted a release to an SEC school, so he paid his own way and sat out a transfer season at South Carolina last year. Circumstances involving care of his daughter have improved, he said, and that made pursuing his rare double transfer possible.
Holloway started both seasons, leading the team in rebounding and steals each year. As a sophomore, he was the fifth-leading rebounder in the SEC at 7.6 per game and had eight double-doubles. He averaged 10.1 points and was eighth in the league in steals.
He was characterized by his high energy on the floor.
“You guys remember Murph flying all over the place, knocking over cups on press row, getting his hands on balls. But you remember that out of a 19-year-old. Now you’ve got that out of a 21-year-old man,” Kennedy said. “When he’s going left, he’s as fast from top of the key to rim as anybody in college basketball.”
Ole Miss was middle of the pack in rebounding last year, ranking sixth in the SEC with a plus-2.5 margin.
Kennedy is banking that he’ll get production not only from Holloway, but more production from Henry and junior forward Reggie Buckner because of the attention Holloway demands on the floor.
The presence of Holloway allows Henry, at 6-9, to slide down into the small forward spot and use his athleticism to create matchup problems.
“It allows Terrance to get out and play to his strength. … From Reg’s standpoint, now he’s got a bruise brother, another 240-pound guy who can get out-of-area rebounds and can score at the basket. He completely transforms our front line,” Kennedy said.
Exhibition: Nov. 3 vs. North Alabama
Season opener: Nov. 11 vs.
SEC opener: Jan. 7 at LSU