Last night, I got the chance (along with roughly 800 other peoplle) to watch the Rebels take on the
Fighting Okra Statesmen on the hardwood in their exhibition game. Sure, the game didn't really mean anything, but it was good to see some of the new guys get a chance to play and show us what they can offer. I'm offering some of my own thoughts on the players, and I encourage you to do the same.
First, the guards:
Chris Warren - Warren played more than any other Rebel, and while he didn't have the best game shooting the ball (3-10 with ten points), he did pass it quite well (seven assists). You know what you're getting with Chris Warren: a quick shooter who can get the ball up and down the court but struggles on defense. Obviously, the offense moves well when Warren is on the court, but it would have been nice to see what Dundrecous Nelson (who was out with a concussion) offers in a spell role. Instead, WIll Bogan was the primary backup at the point.
Trevor Gaskins - Gaskins was on fire last night, making six of eleven shots for seventeen points. Gaskins also brought the ball down the court quite well and created shots for himself. I've never been too high on the guard, but we're going to need him to play well this season if we're going to compete for a trip to the big dance.
Nick Williams - I wasn't sure about Williams at halftime. He hadn't really done much, airballing a three and missing several other shots. In the second half though, he got things going. Nick is a player that fans will really enjoy during his time here. He goes after every loose ball and gets into passing lanes. He only logged two steals on the night, but he got a hand on at least three more passes and really made a difference. At one point, Williams followed the ball to the ground. It ended up going out of bounds, but it was still nice to see that sort of hussle in a game that didn't matter.
Will Bogan - I don't expect Bogan to see much time this year. He played for fifteen minutes in this game, but that's obviously an anomaly. We didn't want Warren to get hurt, and Dundrecous Nelson wasn't able to go. Bogan wasn't bad last night though. He struggles a little bit defensively, and he doesn't facilitate the offense like Warren, but he is generally in the right place without the ball, and he doesn't throw up shots to look good. I'm not saying I want him to play much this year, but I'm not horrified when I think that he'll be third in the point guard rotation when Warren leaves.
Zach Graham - The primary thing I think we can improve over last year's showing is free throw shooting. Last night, Graham was 5-5 from the charity stripe and helped the team to a 15-20 effort. Graham was attacking the basket and drawing fouls in his limited time on the floor. He came away with fifteen points and had one beautiful block from behind. Graham has always been one of my favorite players, and I'm excited that he's likely to see significant time this season. Last night, his perimeter defense helped the Rebels keep the Statesmen to 2-10 shooting from three point range.
Donald WIlliams - Williams struggled last night in shooting, but he came down with three offensive boards. I wasn't paying much attention to him, and I don't remember him doing anything particularly interesting. I hold out hope, since Kentucky thought he was good enough to sign, but I don't expect him to play much this year.
And now the bigs:
Terrance Henry - Early in the game, Terrance was on fire. He scored something like six of our first ten points. Henry finished with ten points and seven rebounds, but more than that, he and Buckner destroyed Delta State's inside game. The Statesmen were only 13 of 53 overall, and a lot of that came from the disruption of Henry and Buckner. They were just all over the place. I can't believe that Terrance only played for seventeen minutes. Considering his huge impact on the game, I figured he must have played much more than that. I think this year could be really big for a larger Henry. He got into foul trouble though, and that's rough (considering the short time he was on the court).
Reginald Buckner - Buckner played a pretty good game, blocking four shots, scoring eight points, and rebounding seven shots. Something not reflected in those stats, yet again, is that the opposition appeared scared of him and was always looking over their shoulder to see where he was. Buckner got up to three fouls in just 21 minutes, but at least one of those was a terrible call where the ref felt sorry for the player Buckner had just violated. Reggie looks to be beastly this year.
Demarco Cox - When I first saw Demarco Cox, I couldn't believe that he weighed three hundred pounds. Honestly, he really doesn't look fat. He's a big guy, but that's not because he's not fit. He doesn't have trouble getting down the court, and he can follow his man to the perimeter when playing defense. I think Cox has a very bright future at Ole Miss. He wasn't great. At times he wasn't even good, but we gave him the ball in the post once, and he made a shoulder-fake move that I haven't seen since Dwayne Curtis. That's right. We actually have someone who we can give the ball while posted up with his back to the basket and have him make something happen.
Steadman Short - I'm not sure why Short only played for thirteen minutes. Obviously, I'm not a coach, and I (admittedly) don't know as much about basketball as I do about football, but he was doing good things on the court. He tallied four rebounds, two steals, and a block.Short did turn the ball over twice, but I don't remember either turnover being particularly egregious. It was just surprising to see him come out with only one foul when Buckner played so much. I anticipated Buckner and Henry only playing for a little bit and coming back in if it got anywhere close to being a close game. The coaches decided to give Buckner and Cox more time, probably in an effort to work on chemistry.
Isaiah Massey - Massey played for eleven minutes, and he did a good bit with his time. Massey may be a project, but at least he is a tall project with athleticism. Massey finished with five rebounds, went 3-4 from the charity stripe, and played good on-ball defense. There were times when he was a little bit lost, but he's a freshman who isn't likely to play much, so that's alright.
Overall, I realize that this analysis has been very optimistic. I don't want to give you the impression that I expect this team to make the NCAA tournament. I think it's possible, but it will take a lot of effort. It's good to see the amount of effort I saw last night in a meaningless exhibition game, but it's going to get much more difficult down the stretch. We'll know a lot more about what we have after playing Dayton, Miami, and Penn State.