Final Act

Their finding each other was serendipitous. A player, Chris Warren, and a coach, Andy Kennedy, paired together through sheer happenstance.

Kennedy didn't know Chris Warren existed when he traveled to Orlando, Fla., for an AAU game in July of 2006.

Kennedy was there scouting another player to round out his recruiting class, but a smallish guard from Dr. Phillips High School instantly grabbed his attention.

Warren had taken over the game -- his quick burst and volume offense reminiscent of Devan Downey, another undersized guard, who Kennedy had coached while at Cincinnati. Kennedy could easily overlook Warren's size.

He saw the potential. He saw the makeup.

"We saw him by accident," Kennedy said. "It shows you how inexact recruiting is."

Warren signed with Ole Miss in 2006. Four years later, he's become one of the greatest players in program history
Courtesy: Associated Press
Kennedy and staff continued to pursue Warren as the recruiting season wore on, but he wasn't made a priority until they missed out on a few other options.

Kennedy had but a few months to recruit Warren. The early signing period was rapidly approaching that following November.

But Kennedy pressed. And he pressed. And he pressed some more. Warren -- holding offers from mostly mid-majors -- was there for the taking. When Kennedy extended a scholarship offer, Warren accepted, joining a signing class already featuring fellow senior Zach Graham and junior Trevor Gaskins.

"AK, he was new to the program. Ole Miss was struggling," Warren said. "I felt like AK could change it around, uplift the program. It was the SEC. Big basketball."

"These guys really took us sight unseen," Kennedy said. "We hadn't coached a game at Ole Miss. We signed them early in the November period. They came before (the basketball practice facility). They came based on a vision of how we were going to play. For them to have the faith in us to come and help us put that vision into reality -- this class will always be a special class."

Warren's accomplishments over his four-year career are staggering.

He currently sits in third place on the all-time Ole Miss scoring chart with 1,934 points. He ranks in the top three in the school record books in both assists and free throws made. He has the most 3-pointers in school history, and has moved into the top five in SEC history.

Warren has scored more than 500 points and dished out more than 100 assists three times in his career. Only three other players in school history have done the same in a single season.

All this despite having missed half of his sophomore season with a torn ACL.

"Chris is a great player," Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said. "You can look at the career he's had. He walked in the door as an impact player as a freshman. He's done a great job throughout his career. His work on the floor speaks for itself."

Warren will play in what is likely his final game inside Tad Smith Coliseum Saturday
Courtesy: Associated Press
"He's had great games against us," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "I've got tremendous, tremendous respect for how talented he is. He showed his toughness by being able to come back from an injury. He's a special, special player."

This season alone, Warren has scored 20-plus points in 13 games, and has led Ole Miss in scoring 21 times and assists 21 times. He tied a school record for 3-pointers made in a game (8) in a loss to South Carolina.

"When knew pretty early in his freshman year (he was special)," Kennedy said. "Who knew he was going to sustain it over the course of his career? His approach has been there from day one. It's not something that we've had to teach him."

Barring a home game in the National Invitation Tournament -- assuming Ole Miss gets in -- Warren will likely be playing his final game on the floor of Tad Smith Coliseum Saturday.

Ole Miss (18-12, 6-9 SEC) and Arkansas (18-11, 7-8 SEC) meet at 3 p.m. The game will be carried by the SEC Network.

"It'll be bittersweet. I'll be excited about his future and the things that he's put himself in position to do. He's going to have the opportunity to play beyond college at some level," Kennedy said. "I'm a huge Chris Warren proponent and his biggest ally.

"It'll be sad when he's gone because of what he's meant to this program. You almost take him for granted at times, because each and every night you know he's going to go out and give consistent effort. You know he's going to produce at a consistent level. That's not easy to do in the SEC. He's meant a lot to this program."

For all of his individual accomplishments, Warren was unable to return Ole Miss to the NCAA Tournament in any of his previous three seasons. And unless the Rebels catch lighting in a bottle in the conference tournament March 10-13, an NCAA Tournament drought going on 10 years will drag on.

But it wasn't for a lack of trying, a lack of will, a lack of effort on Warren's part.

"I try to live with no regrets," Warren said. "I still have a few games left."

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