SEC's Ironman

FAYETTEVILLE -- Rick Stansbury grabbed Todd Abernethy by the jersey and softly spoke into the Ole Miss point guard's ear. The comment from Mississippi State's coach was brief, but meaningful.

He had just stood on the opposing sideline as Abernethy for the ninth time, and Stansbury jokingly wanted Wednesday night's 85-73 Ole Miss victory to be the last.

"I told him leaving the floor, 'I'm glad we don't have to play against you anymore,'" Stansbury said.

Other Southeastern Conference teams, those who still await upcoming matchups with Ole Miss, won't be so lucky.

Abernethy is experiencing his most productive season in Oxford, frustrating opposing and players into thoughts shared by Stansbury.

"From day one, when I got here, I knew in order for this team to have a chance and be successful, Todd Abernethy was going to have to lead us," said first-year coach Andy Kennedy.

Abernethy has done just that. And to some coaches, it must seem like Abernethy has been in the SEC forever.

Since starting his first game on campus as a freshman, the 6-foot-1 senior has appeared in 110 consecutive games. He started all 28 games as a freshman. He played in all 31 games as a sophomore, mostly coming off the bench, and earned the SEC Sixth Man of the Year award.

He started all 30 games last season as a junior and has now started every game for Ole Miss (14-8, 3-5) but one.

A concussion kept him from suiting up against Louisiana-Lafeyette, snapping his streak.

"It was pretty weird having to watch my teammates out there from the bench," Abernethy said.

Abernethy has gone from a 5.4 scoring average his freshman year to 8.3, 8.6 and 11.1 in following seasons. His assist average stayed about the same his first three seasons but nearly doubled this season (5.3).

Kennedy said the improvement has been the result of Abernethy's dogged dedication.

"He's not the swiftest-a-foot, but he's very strong and he does a good job of protecting the ball and getting it to the right people," Kennedy said.

Though Kennedy relies on Abernethy's on-court abilities, he may value his point guard's leadership qualities even more.

Abernethy played a crucial role in Kennedy's assimilation into the Ole Miss program and also dedicates a chunk of his time to community service and teen outreach programs. He's extremely involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Ole Miss, even tapping into his guitar skills to lead worship services.

"He's a tremendous kid with unbelievable character kid, and he's great ambassador for the university," Kennedy said.

His ambassador roles can stretch to the basketball program, as well. Kennedy said he hoped to replace Abernethy -- when he finally moves on -- with a point guard who possessed similar intangibles.

Right now, Kennedy is just cherishing every moment, marveling as Abernethy involved teammates like Bam Doyne, Clarence Sanders and Dwayne Curtis.

"I'm being more aggressive, and those guys can really score," Abernethy said. "When I'm aggressive and creating, it opens things up for other people."

To be sure, other coaches aren't marveling. They're cringing.

"Right now, he's as good a lead point guard as there is in the (SEC)," Stansbury said. "He's a guy that can lead a team, but at the same time score. He's got that combination maybe more than any other guy in this league."

Name: Todd Abernethy

Age: 22

Class: Senior

Height: 6-1

Weight: 190

Hometown: Carmel, Ind.

Notable: Has served as the Rebels' team captain during his junior and senior seasons. ... Ranks seventh on the Ole Miss all-time lists for both career 3-pointers (104) and 3-point percentage (.382) and is 10th in career assists (249). ... Finished prep career as Heritage Christian High School's all-time leading scorer.

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