AK grades Rebels

Through nine games on the still-young hoops season, Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy gave us a few minutes to evaluate where he thinks the Rebels are in their progress as they prepare for a tourney trip to Cancun. Read about it inside.


That's the current Ole Miss men's basketball record as they head toward a holiday tournament this week in Cancun, Mexico.

And while that's all some bottom-line people want to know, the nuts and bolts of where the Rebels are at this stage of the season in Coach Andy Kennedy's mind reveals more.

To AK, the Rebels are doing a lot of good things, but to be a complete team - the kind of team he envisions, they have to make some strides in certain areas.

"The biggest thing we have to improve on is rebounding off our defensive glass. We call it first-shot defense," Kennedy began. "We chart our first-shot defense and we have been very good - around 35% shooting for our opponents on first shots - but we have to do a better job of getting that rebound off misses.

"We are giving up too many rebounds and second shots on goal."

The Rebels bigs - mainly Reggie Buckner and DeMarco Cox - are not the only players in that equation, according to the Rebel mentor.

"We have some big wings and they have to rebound better and rebound to their size," he continued. "We have to do a better job of rebounding as a team, as a unit."

On the flip side, Kennedy sees areas he's pleased with as well.

"We are taking care of the ball pretty good and not turning it over much. Our pace of play has been close to where I want it," AK noted. "Our shooting has been pretty good because we are getting better production from our frontcourt.

"We have also developed 8,9, 10 guys we can play and feel comfortable with, so our depth is getting better. Overall, we have played pretty good defense, except for getting rebounds off first misses."

Kennedy and his staff has worked two freshmen - PG Dondrecous Nelson and C Cox - into the rotation and he's pleased with their early progress.

"They are getting better. At times DeMarco does good things - he has a good presence and feel for the game. He just needs to get out of the high school pace, and that's coming," Kennedy stated. "Dundrecous has all the talent in the world. He can do things not a lot of guys can do. It's just a matter of him getting experience and reps. He needs to understand how important each possession is.

"As far as him learning the system, he's making progress, but as a coach, I'm never going to be satisfied there. Point guard is different - he has to know not only what he is supposed to do in different sets, but he has to control the orchestra, so to speak. His confidence is growing and his knowledge is getting better. He is going to be a tremendous player for us."

Moving forward, it's just a matter of continuing to improve and continuing to gel as a team.

So far, so good, other than two blemishes - Dayton at home and Miami on the road.

So what "grade" would Kennedy give his team through nine games?

"We're a solid B. Except for the first half at Miami and the end of overtime against Dayton, we have played pretty good basketball so far," he closed. "Sure, there are areas we can improve, but I see growth and progress and that's about all you can ask as the season unfolds."

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