By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
NASHVILLE – Marshall Henderson has often played this season with a chip on his shoulder.
It just got a little bigger earlier this week when he was left off the coaches’ All-SEC first team.
“Somebody said on Twitter, ‘You don’t want to motivate him.’ Well, he’s motivated,” said Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway, who joined Henderson on the All-SEC second team.
The flamboyant Henderson was not made available for interviews after the Rebels finished their mid-day practice Thursday at a local high school.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy insists all his players are motivated for their SEC tournament opener tonight at 9 at Bridgestone Arena. The third-seeded Rebels, who play the winer of Thursday’s late game between Missouri and Texas A&M, will be the last team to take the floor.
“We gave them Sunday off, came back Monday and talked to them about the next opportunity. We’ve had three really good days. Guys are locked in and excited about it,” Kennedy said.
Henderson leads the SEC in scoring at 19.7 points a game. He scored 20 or more points in 10 of the 18 conference games and led the league in 3-point field goals and in free throw shooting.
“I was a little surprised, but I’m not as big a conspiracy theorist as some. It is what it is. Marshall and Murph could have split the vote. Marshall had good games and bad games, Murph had good games and bad games. I don’t read too much into it,” Kennedy said.
The Rebels (23-8, 12-6 SEC) enter the conference tournament as the No. 3 seed. They’ve won four of their last six – including an impressive 81-67 victory at LSU last Saturday in the regular season finale – but the two losses were to two sub-200 RPI teams, South Carolina and Mississippi State.
As a result, those who project the NCAA tournament field have Ole Miss on the edge of an at-large bid with work to do in the SEC tournament to have a shot.
Kennedy, a self-professed college basketball junkie, refused to address the speculation.
Holloway, the SEC’s leading rebounder, has faced the bubble at Ole Miss before. Last year the Rebels had won five straight games – two in the SEC tournament – before losing in the semifinals against Vanderbilt and falling short of the NCAAs.
More than Kennedy, Holloway offered a bit of a roadmap to arrive at March Madness and skip March Sadness.
“We have to win the whole thing, that’s what I think,” he said.