By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ORLEANS – The college basketball future for the first McDonald’s All-American in the history of the Ole Miss basketball program is in doubt, but the Rebels, a bit short-handed now, aren’t looking very much into the future at all.
The school announced Tuesday evening that Memphis transfer Jelan Kendrick, a redshirt freshman guard and the team’s top reserve, has been suspended indefinitely.
As teams gathered at the New Orleans Arena in advance of today’s first-round SEC tournament games, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy was non-committal on Kendrick’s future.
“The fact that he’s not with us … I think that speaks volumes. I’d like to focus on the guys who are here, with all due respect. The situation is unfortunate. He’s not with the team, and where we go in the future has yet to be determined,” he said.
Ole Miss completed the regular season 18-12 overall, 8-8 in SEC play. The No. 7-seeded Rebels take on No. 10 seed Auburn at 6:30 p.m., in today’s third game.
The Kendrick situation concludes a different sort of regular season that also included two players – Kendrick and freshman guard LaDarius White – who were not eligible until the close of the fall semester, the dismissal of two players – sophomore guard Dundrecous Nelson and freshman Jamal Jones – and an injury to key player Murphy Holloway. Nelson was the team’s leading scorer at the time of his dismissal.
The Rebels begin the tournament on a three-game win streak, surpassed only by Tennessee and it’s four-game streak as the “hot” SEC team not named Kentucky.
“A lot of things have happened that we did not necessarily want to happen, but nobody wants to hear your excuses as to why you didn’t get it done,” junior guard Nick Williams said. “Either you got it done, or you didn’t, and these last couple of games we’ve been getting it done. We’ve put ourselves in a good spot where we can try to make some noise.”
Said senior guard-forward Terrance Henry: “I feel like we’re a resilient group. We’ve been through a lot this year with Dundrecous and the problems we’ve had with other things, injuries to Murph and Reg. We fought through that, and we got back to 8-8 in the league like we needed to.”
Kennedy met with Kendrick Monday afternoon to discuss the player’s sudden disappearance before warm-ups prior to the Rebels’ final regular season game last Saturday. Kendrick appeared on the bench after the game started.
He’s averaging 5.1 points, 2.2 rebounds and has been helpful with his versatility as a rebounder, defender and ball-handler.
Ole Miss and Auburn split their regular season series, each winning at home. Today’s winner gets Tennessee in the second round.
Ole Miss players believe they have a chance to play their way into an NCAA tournament at-large bid, something no Ole Miss team has done since 2002.
“It would mean a lot. That’s everybody’s goal at the beginning of the season,” Williams said. “But we’re just trying to take it one game at a time. I know it’s cliché, but that’s the only thing we can do, focus on the next opponent and try to get a win.”