Pressure, Shmessure

Dundrecous Nelson is under some pressure this season, sure. But he isn't sweating it much.

He sees no reason to, really.

Nelson is the player expected by most to take over for Chris Warren, who graduated last season. Warren was one of the more accomplished players in program history, his name prominent throughout the Ole Miss and Southeastern Conference record books.

Meanwhile, Nelson's career is in just its second season.

"I don't really feel too much pressure, but it probably seems like it, because Chris is gone and how we're going to fill his shoes," Nelson said. "With Chris gone, I gotta just be me. I ain't really worried about filling those shoes. I'm just going to do what I can to help the team."

Nelson is Warren-like; a somewhat undersized point guard with the ability to drain a 3-point shot from almost anywhere on the floor. But he's broader and stronger than Warren was, and he is still growing and developing his game.

Nelson has noticeably slimmed down this summer in off-season workouts, replacing fat with muscle. It's an effort to add even more quickness to his game, something Warren had plenty of.

Dundrecous Nelson
Associated Press
"I think this has probably been the best off-season I've probably had my whole life, really. I've put in a lot of work," he said. "I know since Chris is gone, I got to step up and help lead the team. I've just been going as hard as I can every day."

Warren was one of only four players in Southeastern Conference history to reach 2,000 points and 400 assists in a career, joining the likes of LSU's Pete Maravich and Tennessee's Allan Houston.

He also finished atop the school chart for 3-point field goals made and attempted. He sits third in career points, sixth in field goals made and 10th in scoring average.

Nelson said he learned a lot from Warren in their only season together. In some ways, Warren was his mentor.

"I learned a lot from Chris," Nelson said. "He's one tough person. He might be little, but he's one tough person. He kind of showed me the way a little bit, just talking to him in the off-season here and there. He gave me a couple of things to do and whatnot. But, I mean, he kind of is (my mentor). I learned a lot from him. I watched his game when we were playing and just took what I could."

Nelson played in all 34 games last season, with starts in the last seven. He averaged a rather pedestrian 7.2 points per game, but he did explode for a freshman-record 30-point performance in a win against Auburn. He also tied another freshman record with seven 3-pointers in the game.

"We all saw flashes of what Dundrecous can bring to this program with his explosive ability to score and the physical nature that he brings that guard spot," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said.

But for every good game(s), there was a bad one(s). Sometimes, Nelson all but disappeared.

In the four games following his 30-point outburst at Auburn, Nelson scored double-digit points three times. However, he scored no more than 14 points in any of those three, and his shooting percentage was no better than 42 percent.

Nelson finished with no points in the team's first-round loss to California in the National Invitation Tournament, which ended Ole Miss' season.

"My main goal this year is being consistent," Nelson said. "I know I did this and that (last year), but I may have had two good games back to back, and three games you probably wouldn't have known I was out there.

"I mean, everybody knows I'll jack it up. I'm really working on my defense and passing the ball, ‘cause I know I can get my shot off whenever I want to. This off-season, I'm just trying to work it all out. That's going to be my biggest thing this year, being consistent."

Dundrecous Nelson
Associated Press
Nelson won't be alone in an otherwise young and inexperienced back court. Junior Nick Williams returns for his third season. Jelan Kendrick, a freshman, transferred to Ole Miss in January, and was able to practice with the team in the spring.

There's at least some experience.

"We might be young, but we got something to deal with in the backcourt this year," Nelson said. "We ain't nothing to play around with. All of us push each other, even Jelan. Me and Jelan, we stay on each other. Each one of us is pushing each other."

Ole Miss almost has its full team together after the arrival of Maurice Aniefiok this month. Ladarius White, the only signee not on campus, is expected in mid-July.

Nelson said the pick-up games this summer have been spirited, the many new faces and old ones meshing well.

Kennedy added seven players to his roster and said goodbye to at least three veteran players this off-season who were eligible to return. Only six scholarship players who were members of the 15-player roster last season are back.

"I think we got some dogs this year. We're really after each other," Nelson said. "Really, our whole team is talking; probably talking too much. That's probably going to be the key this year. Coach (Kennedy) is already emphasizing that we have to talk. Playing pick-up ball, we're talking. If you're playing pick-up that way, it's going to carry over into the games.

"The players we have this year, the people we added on and the people that are stepping their game up, I think we're going to be real competitive. I don't think we'll give up. It's going to be hard to beat a competitive team like that."

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