By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Sure, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy would like to see Johnny O’Bryant playing basketball for the Rebels.
That ship has sailed, however.
What Kennedy would really like now is more production from his frontcourt, and the Rebels will try to deliver that with a possibly shifting playing rotation against an LSU group led by O’Bryant and strengthened with talented newcomers.
Tipoff at Tad Smith Coliseum is tonight at 8, and the game will be televised by CSS.
O’Bryant, a sophomore and native of Cleveland, Miss., was a recruiting priority for Kennedy but was a swing and a miss. He’s averaging 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds.
“It is what it is. That battle was lost a long time ago,” Kennedy said.
Sophomore Anthony Perez and freshmen Sebastian Saiz and Dwight Coleby will be part of tonight’s battles for the Rebels.
So will juniors Aaron Jones and Demarco Cox, whose roles were called into question after the Rebels’ lost 76-72 at Mississippi State last Saturday and Kennedy said it might be time to “turn the page” to younger players.
Saiz, averaging 4.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 19.3 minutes, welcomes the challenge.
“I came here to play,” he said. “I’m ready.”
Perez, 6-foot-9 like Saiz, has played a number of positions in a year and a half, most recently the 4, or big forward, against Mississippi State when he had six rebounds in the Rebels’ 76-72 loss.
He brings the hope of offense, though he’s averaging only 4.9 points.
Saiz has a history with LSU freshman Jordan Mickey at previous levels of competition. The production of Mickey, a 6-8 leaper and shot-blocker, rivals that of O’Bryant.
“He has a very quick jump. We have to be careful with that. If we go in with easy layups he can block it,” Saiz said. “The only thing is he’s not tough. He’s weak. We can like put a body on him … that will be good for us.”
It would also be good for Ole Miss if the Rebels got more from Cox and his 6-8, 276-pound frame.
Cox played only 10 minutes at MSU, none in the second half.
Kennedy says he hasn’t given up and that Cox remains part of the plan.
“I’m trying. Demarco’s heart’s in the right place,” Kennedy said. “He’s got a big, strong, physical body. Ultimately it comes down to production.”