Holloway, Reggie Buckner and Nick Williams are seniors, and as basketball practice approaches its second week, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy wants them to understand that the clock is ticking.
The three have been a part of a lot of wins with the Rebels, but while they’ve been close, they haven’t been able to help Ole Miss break a streak of 10 seasons without an NCAA tournament bid.
“Coach doesn’t let us forget that Ole Miss ain’t going to pay our bills forever,” said Holloway, speaking at Tuesday’s preseason press conference.
Kennedy is hoping his trio of seniors – sophomore point guard Jarvis Summers gives him four returning starters – can cash out with a trip to March Madness.
Kennedy says his seventh Ole Miss team is the most experienced team he’s coached.
It’s also his most diverse, and what makes it intriguing, he says, is the varying skill sets and quick acclimation of six newcomers.
Several of them are expected to make significant contributions.
“If you asked my staff and me to rank the top seven players you’d probably get four different answers,” Kennedy said. “That speaks to the competition we’re seeing.”
The newcomer with the most advance attention is junior college player of the year Marshall Henderson. Kennedy said Henderson’s shooting will be a key element for an Ole Miss team that struggled beyond the perimeter a year ago.
The threat of Henderson’s shooting might be just as important.
“Spacing, I think is probably the biggest thing that he brings, because you have to guard him. When you look at Murphy and look at Reg, they’re not block to block power guys with Kevin McHale post moves. They’re slashers and athletes who need angles. Last year there was limited space for them to operate,” Kennedy said.
The skills of the newcomers should help the Rebels “score the ball” more easily, Kennedy said.
Still, it’s the veterans who will be the face of the program at the beginning, and it’s their drive – their sense of urgency – that Kennedy hopes will inspire the team.
“Terrance (Henry) had a sense of urgency last year, and as he would implore Reg and Murph, the juniors, to have that sense of urgency, they couldn’t get it,” he said. “Now they get it. Those guys understand that each and every day is the last opportunity for them to do what they came here to do.”