Oh Henry!

Terrance Henry won't dispute the talent lost from a disappointing 2009 Ole Miss men's basketball team. A retooled, new-look roster is obvious when he makes his rounds inside the team's state-of-the-art practice facility.

Instead, what he sees, what makes this group of Rebels stand out from others he's competed with, is their maturity.

"From all our coaches' standpoint, they say this is the most mature team we've had since they've been here," Henry said. "We just go to work and try to get stuff done."

Maturity, at least to Henry, was a trait clearly lacking as Ole Miss failed to make the NCAA Tournament for yet another season. The talent was there, but not the mental fortitude, leading to a frustrating few months.

"(Maturity) is very important," he said. "It translates right to games, because you've got to be mentally prepared anyway. And you're not going to be mentally prepared if you're not mature enough to take what (Ole Miss head) Coach (Andy) Kennedy is going to throw at you. It's very important."

Five players are gone from last season's National Invitation Tournament team. Ole Miss graduated DeAundre Cranston. Terrico White, Murphy Holloway and Eniel Polynice all left the program for various reasons.

Polynice, a divisive figure, was suspended towards season's end for conduct detrimental to the team.

Terrance Henry

He declared for the NBA draft, but ultimately used an NCAA clearance waiver to enroll at Seton Hall for his final collegiate season. White remained in draft, and was selected by the Detroit Pistons in the second round. Holloway returned to his native South Carolina to be closer to family, joining the Gamecocks as a walk-on.

An influx of newcomers has arrived to take their place. It was a busy offseason for Kennedy, who sought out and signed Steadman Short, Demarco Cox, Dundrecous Nelson, Donald Williams and Isaiah Massey.

"They've been working hard," Henry said of the new arrivals. "Steadman, since he's been here, he's been working hard. He's going to be good for us. He plays a lot like me; he's just a little bigger. Demarco is going to be a force down low. Dundrecous is going to be real good, too. He's really athletic. Isaiah is coming along, too. We have some really athletic new guys. We're going to be all right."

But as Henry sits in recollection, pondering aloud the chance Ole Miss has to compete for an SEC crown and postseason berth in his junior season, he's encouraged. There's no feeling of a rebuilding year in this locker room or on the practice courts.

Far from it, actually.

Henry joins a core group of veterans, led by Chris Warren, more motivated than ever to return Ole Miss to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002. From the work put in on a daily basis, to the mundane details of a student-athlete, there's a renewed focus, a renewed energy.

"About some people predicting this is going to be a rebuilding year, we're just going to take that into mind everywhere we go," he said. "We look at it as motivation."

There's little concern with Ole Miss' backcourt. Warren is joined by, among others, Trevor Gaskins and Zach Graham. Henry figures in as well, though his primary responsibility is shoring up an inexperienced post alongside sophomore Reginald Buckner.

Terrance Henry

"In the post and just as a team, (the coaches) are looking at the veterans for leadership," Henry said. "They're looking for us to carry the team and bring the young guys along."

Henry, a lanky forward, was one of Ole Miss' more consistent players over a 24-11 season. He played all but two games, posting averages of 6.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 17.1 minutes per game.

Most impressive, however, he improved his 3-point percentage by nearly 30 points. An 11.8 percent shooter entering the year, he led the team with a 40.4 clip as a sophomore. He also shot 55.8 percent from the field and 73.1 percent from the free throw line.

Moving forward, Henry is honing in on numerous aspects of his game. Kennedy is sure to rely on the former top-100 national recruit, considering he can play a multitude of positions outside of the post. When the team goes small, he can man the lone forward spot and push tempo. He's also skilled enough to man a wing position because of his deadly accuracy beyond the arc.

"I'm working on my ball-handling a lot," he said. "I've been shooting a lot. I'm working on my mid-range post game. I can see me playing a lot more on the wing; playing like Zach and Trevor play."

Aside from on the court, Henry has goals off the court. He wants to be a team captain, a leader. No longer is he a follower, looking to his teammates to guide him. He's assuming his role, confident and eager to open a season and help prove Ole Miss' doubters wrong.

"I won't say this is the most athletic team we've had, because we were athletic last year," he said. "But like I said earlier, we come in with the mindset of when it's time to work, we work. When it's to play, we know how to play.

"But when it's time to put on the shoes, strap up and play, we get it done. No complaints. We've got a lot to prove. We're just trying to take the school back to the NCAA Tournament."

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