BIRMINGHAM – The Ole Miss basketball team sustained some heavy losses at the outset of last season that had a lasting and negative impact.
In retrospect, the potential loss the Rebels overcame at season’s end could have been just as devastating for the future.
But Terrico White decided to stay.
Thursday, White told reporters at SEC basketball media day that he was “leaning toward leaving” for the NBA after taking the SEC by storm as freshman.
Thrust into the role of point guard after sophomore Chris Warren blew out a knee in December, White was the SEC’s No. 4 scorer in league competition at 18.4 points a game and its second-best 3-point shooter against the league at 2.9 3-pointers per game.
“He said he was close. Me and his momma said he wasn’t that close,” said Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy, noting that White, a 6-foot-5, 213-pound guard, never applied for the NBA Draft.
White acknowledged the effect that discussions with his coach and his mother had on his decision to return for his sophomore season.
White became the Rebels’ best player, hitting big shots, creating off the dribble and dunking over much larger post players.
He scored 20 or more points against nine SEC opponents, including the last five games. He led the team in scoring 14 times and in assists 10 times. Fifteen times he had three or more 3-pointers.
Some Web sites that cover the NBA, including ESPN.com, are projecting him as a middle-to-late first-round pick in 2010.
That may come to pass, but Kennedy said didn’t believe White was ready for the 2009 draft. Kennedy said he couldn’t have “lived with” himself had he not counseled White about coming back.
Can he handle the truth?
“Thank goodness I’ve got enough friends that will tell him the truth,” Kennedy said. “Hey, when it’s time, I’ll be talking on the phone with them. I’ll be talking to Joe Dumars (Detroit Pistons president of basketball operations), and he’ll say, ‘Andy, we’re taking him in this spot right here.’ ”
White says he’s staying focused on an Ole Miss team that he says can do “big things” this year.
Those big things will come with White at the shooting guard as Warren returns to the point. It’s a return to his original college position that White makes with some reluctance, noting he hopes to play the point in the NBA.
“I’m 6-5, and the 2 guards in the NBA are 6-7. I’d be bigger than most guards at the 1,” he said.
With the return of Warren and other scoring options this season, White says he expects his scoring to decrease, but he expects to average “around seven” assists.
For all the video highlight shots White knocked down, there is room for improvement. The biggest need, though, is just to more fully understand the game as it advances.
“It’s about maturity and consistency,” Kennedy said. “He’s played 31 games. He’ll be better when he’s played 32, 33 and 34. Physically, he’s as gifted as I’ve ever been around.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal