[This is part one of a three-part series where Juco, One Man to Beat, and yours truly will collaborate to preview the upcoming basketball season. We're excited for a little roundball, considering how poorly football has gone, and we hope this gets you a little excited as well. Part one, this part, will look at the roster, part two will look at the schedule, and part three will be a roundtable of sorts where we examine our expectations for this year - if you'd like to participate in that segment, tweet at or email us.]
Who exactly are the Ole Miss Monsters (something which we must call them after having seen the surprisingly well done basketball promo which debuted this past weekend) for this upcoming season? Juco All-American, One Man to Beat and I hope to answer that with this installment of our Ole Miss basketball preview. We've broken this down into three parts: the frontcourt, the backcourt, and the newcomers.
The Frontcourt (OneManToBeat):
For nearly the entirety of Andy Kennedy's tenure at Ole Miss, the frontcourt has been full of JC transfers, newcomers and skinny/doe-eyed/under20anditshows players.
Other than the first season with Dwayne Curtis and Jermey Parnell, here's a few names of the revolving door of big men under Kennedy - Terrence Watson, Kenny Williams, DeAundre Cranston, Kevin Cantinol and Malcolm White. There's others out there (DeAngelo Riley comes to mind), but there has not been a solid core of experienced big men with reliable depth since 2006-2007.
This season, the Rebels have a chance to be fairly special in the frontcourt with returning starters Terrance Henry and Reginald Buckner and the potential emergence of DeMarco Cox and a returning Murphy Holloway.
Holloway hasn't played in over a year, opting to sit out for a season under transfer rules at South Carolina and then returning to Ole Miss with a recently approved NCAA eligibility waiver. While at Ole Miss previously, Murphy was a decent player averaging more than 10 points per game and 7 rebounds per game in roughly 25 minutes of play as a sophomore. We'd expect Holloway to add experience and depth to the frontcourt, but it may take him a month or two before he is back to his sophomore output or playing better than before.
DeMarco Cox lumbered onto the Ole Miss floor last season as a 320 lb. center and looked more lost than Cranston ever did in his two years. Cox looks pretty athletic from his limited minutes last season, but now he is down to 276 lbs. and heaps of praise from Kennedy is doled out during preseason interviews. Cox must be able to give more than 15 or 20 minutes of competent basketball for us to proclaim his emergence as a reliable center for the Rebels.
Henry and Buckner were forced into leadership roles last season, and the results were somewhat mixed. Buckner is a good shot-blocker with a chance to break every shot block record at Ole Miss, but he continues to battle foul trouble. If Buckner can stay in the games for more than 8 to 9 minutes per half, then he could transition from a player with glimpses of dominance to a dominant player.
Henry has to be the player who steps up the biggest this season in the frontcourt. He's a senior. He's had some moments of good basketball play in his first three seasons. He's most likely not NBA bound, so this is his shot to really cement his legacy at Ole Miss. Henry has slowly increased his output every season at Ole Miss, but he has not lived up to his scouting reports from high school. At 6'9'', 210 lbs., Henry has added a little muscle to his lanky frame since his freshman year, but he is still not a prototypical forward body. With his leaner frame, Henry should be a better scorer from further out, and if he can extend his range, his point totals should lead the team.
Other forwards include Steadman Short who will see some play but is not by any means a consistent option and newcomer Aaron Jones will be covered more in depth in our "new to the team" portion.
The Backcourt (Ghost):
Dundrecous Nelson was a highly rated shooting guard out of Jackson basketball powerhouse Murrah two seasons ago who, during the 2010-11 campaign showed decent ball control and the ability to score well enough to, at the very least, keep his scholarship. Couscous played as a true freshman in all 34 games last season, and actually started the final seven. He averaged 7.2 points in 15.1 minutes per and finished fourth on the team in scoring, third in 3-pointers (44) and third in free-throw percentage (78.0). His free throw percentage must improve this season as the NCAA-leading free throw shooting Chris Warren is now living the good life in Australia and playing basketball for, I dunno, the Canberra Kangaroos or some shit. I'm not gonna look it up. Anyway, we'll need some guards who can perform at the stripe, and I for one hope Nelson can be one of those guys. Even with guys like Zach Graham and Chris Warren eating up minutes on the floor, Nelson had a few memorable nights. He ;ed the team in scoring twice and in assists three times, including a night during which he set the Ole Miss freshman record with a 30-point performance (against Auburn).
Nelson is much more of a shooter than I think many wanted him to be. People who want him to be the point of this team are going to be disappointed. This isn't to suggest that he doesn't dish the ball well - he does well enough I suppose - but he should see his role primarily off of the bench at either guard spot in a scoring role.
Wing/Guard and once Indiana Hoosier Nick Williams is a guy that I'm looking for solid minutes from this season. As with Nelson, Williams played in all 34 games and started 25 of them, something which surprised me as I didn't recall him getting that many starts. He averaged 6.2 points and 4.0 rebounds in 24.5 minutes. He is the kind of player who rarely gets a mindboggling statistic anywhere, but tends to get respectable stats everywhere. A typical Nick Williams night goes to the tune of <10 points, a few rebounds, a few steals, a few assists, and maybe a block or two. Consider him the utility infielder of the Ole Miss basketball team. When he's on the floor, he'll play hard and heady basketball, which is all I think we can ask of him considering how the arrival of Kendrick, Summers, and (re-arrival of) Big Murf will leech him of minutes later in the season. Early on, though, before Kendrick is eligible and while the freshmen get their feet wet, we'll see a lot of Nick Williams.
Dale Hughes is a guy who transferred from Florida A&M two seasons ago. He averaged a little over 7 points a game for the Rattlers and was an adept three-point shooter. He's now eligible to play. Yay?
Finally, Will Norman is Will Bogan with a few more inches of height and likely better rebounding ability. Expect the Norman/Hughes/Steadman Short lineup to be tossed on the floor when the Rebs are up by 20 with 5:00 to go against the Northwest Technical Southern College for Mining and Commerce A&M, Macon.
The Newcomers (Juco):
The highest touted of the newcomers (if we can call him that) is 6'7" PG/SG/SF Jelan Kendrick, a former McDonald's All-American. Kendrick attended Memphis for the first semester of his freshman year but left the team before they had begun the season. During Christmas break, he transferred to Ole Miss and will not be eligible to play for the Rebs until January of 2012. When he comes in, he's likely an immediate impact player who allows us to manipulate our lineup a great deal since he can play the 1-3. Having talked to a few people who have spoken and interacted with Kendrick, I can say that it appears we won't have the same trouble from him that forced him to leave the Memphis program. Suffice it to say that he is afraid of what Andy Kennedy might do to him were he to step out of line. On the court, we can expect him to attack the basket relentlessly, but don't expect to see him draining threes. That's simply not his style. Also, he's an aggressive defender who doesn't have a reputation for laziness.
Jarvis Summers has been the name of the Summer and Fall. The 6'3" PG from Provine High School is the probable starter at his position (until Kendrick is eligible) which should allow Dundrecous to shift over to the 2 spot and be a menacing scorer there. Summers is a pass-first point guard who plays good defense, something we've never had under Kennedy. It should be interesting to see whether he can live up to the praise Kennedy and other players have heaped on him. Again, don't expect Summers to be shooting tons of threes. He is apparently alright from the perimeter but prefers to drive the lane. I'm excited to see him play.
6'5" shooting guard Maurice Aniefiok is a wild card among the guards. He doesn't have a lot of experience in the U.S. playing basketball, but he has enough potential to have drawn interest from several elite programs. Aniefiok will likely get several chances to earn playing time and prove himself early due to our dearth at guard. Let's hope he takes advantage of the opportunity and makes our choices hard when Kendrick is eligible.
I'll reiterate what I said in our May column here. 6'8" Forward Aaron Jones and 6'8" guard (wtf?) Jamal Jones, however much Kennedy talks them up right now, are going to have trouble finding playing time this year. If Jamal really is a guard, then I guess it's possible he sees a few minutes before Kendrick becomes eligible, but I never read anything about him, and Kennedy never mentions him. Aaron has had praise placed upon him by AK, but he's a forward in a crowded frontcourt. He's sitting behind Reggie Buckner, Terrance Henry, Murphy Holloway, Steadman Short, and Demarco Cox in line. With only two spots, it's going to be tough for him to see any real minutes.
The final newcomer, 6'6" PG/SG Ladarius White, has not been cleared by the NCAA yet. Kennedy has alluded to the idea that White may not be eligible to play for us this season. Even if he is, we've heard nothing about him to suggest he will see meaningful time.
So there's your 2011-12 Rebel basketball team. You can meet them this Saturday. Be a good fan. Do it.