Time is Near

September is a football month. Same for October, save for the Major League Baseball playoffs.

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But tucked away on the corner of Coliseum Drive is a program readying for a season rapidly approaching. Ole Miss basketball is entrenched in individual instruction, as it has been for weeks, and official practices are set to begin October 14.

So far, so good; at least to head coach Andy Kennedy, who is entering his sixth season at Ole Miss, and has four 20-win seasons and 105 wins to his credit. Coaches are allowed practice time with players during individuals, but that time is limited to a few hours a week.

"Our guys have been great," Kennedy said. "We've really, from a physical standpoint, we've taxed them, and they've responded. I look at the makeup of our group and I like the pieces. Everybody's been here and they've been working to put in the necessary effort that we demand in order for us to be productive during this segment of our season in preparation for what's in front of us.

"For me, it's been very educational just to see what we're working with; to have the first opportunity of getting on the floor and coaching these new guys. To me a huge indicator on future success is the approach. Does it have to be forced? Do they have to be externally motivated? Are they starting to get it? That's what's been educational for me throughout this process."

Freshman Ladarius White arrived in early September, the final piece of Kennedy's 2011 signing class. Like junior Murphy Holloway, however, he is awaiting word from the NCAA on his playing status for the upcoming season.

Four other freshmen enrolled in the summer. They've been practicing with the team, and each has impressed Kennedy in different ways. Guards Maurice Aniefiok and Jarvis Summers, as well as forward Aaron Jones, have stood out.

Jarvis Summers
Ben Garrett

Summers is a throwback point guard.

Senior leader Terrance Henry describes Summers as a pass-first point guard; a stark contrast to the likes of Chris Warren, who graduated, and sophomore Dundrecous Nelson, two volume-scoring point guards.

"He's impressing me the most. I like Jarvis," Henry said. "It's just his knowledge of the game. He's not like a traditional point guard, a score-first guard we've had here in the past. He's a pass-first guard, a little old school in his game. He's going to be pretty good."

"Our freshmen have just been tremendous, starting with Jarvis," Kennedy said. "He's come in with a more mature approach than you're used to seeing with most freshmen. Aaron Jones, he didn't get a lot of hype coming out of high school because he was void of the AAU scene. This kid is going to be a terrific player. He's got a motor out of this world. Incredibly competitive. Works at it. And then you bring in a kid like Maurice Aniefiok which, again, is not your typical freshman because he's come from where he came from in Nigeria to this environment. He's really worked in transforming his body and absorbing the resources he's never had access to at any level. He's truly embraced the opportunity."

Kennedy has kept busy recruiting, having already secured a commitment from Memphis, Tenn., guard Martavious Newby, rated a three-star prospect by Scout.com. He's spent a number of days on the road recruiting over the last few weeks.

However, not all is perfect, of course.

Senior Steadman Short has been dealing with a stress fracture in his shin, an injury he suffered during the summer. He went home for three weeks but when he came back, the injury was worse. For the better part of the last two months, Short was restricted to rehabilitation only. But he's healing, which is a positive sign.

"This is a little different off-season simply because there are so many unknowns that we're dealing with, as it relates to the Murphy situation, as it relates to the team and how the team will change once Jelan (Kendrick) becomes eligible. How do you handle that once you get into practice? Stead's injury. Right now, we're fully engrossed in the day-to-day improvement of our players.

"We truly treat this like individual development. This is about them getting better so we can get better, and paying the price physically of 6:30 morning runs and wrestling in the sand and lifting weights and pushing them physically to the point of exhaustion. We're laying the foundation that physically, we're going to be capable of doing what we want to do."

The status of Holloway looms large, not only for what he could bring to the team on the court but off the court, as well.

Murphy Holloway
Associated Press

Holloway transferred from Ole Miss to South Carolina last year, only to transfer back to Ole Miss in April. He is awaiting a ruling by the NCAA to waive a year-in-residency requirement for transfers.

Ole Miss, according to sources, is optimistic. The addition of Holloway, should he receive good news, would be significant.

Holloway, once a two-year starter, averaged 10.1 points per game and 7.6 rebounds in his sophomore season at Ole Miss, and would join Henry and veteran forward Reginald Buckner in a deep and experienced front court. Even more, Kennedy will look to Holloway for leadership.

Holloway led the Rebels in rebounding each of his two seasons.

"Nothing changes until our opener. He's a full-fledge member of everything until November 11th," Kennedy said. "Then can he play or not in that game, we have to know by then. It still gives us some time but, no, we don't know yet."

"I can't wait," Henry said of Holloway joining the team officially. "I ask him every day and play around with him saying ‘Bro, you're not going to be eligible.' But I've been hearing everything's going to be good. Hopefully before we start official practice, he'll be ready."

The Rebels have but two seniors in Henry and Short. Buckner and Holloway are juniors, as is guard Nick Williams. Henry is the team's top returning scorer.

Henry is pleased with the team's attitude and work ethic so far. Ole Miss finished 20-14 last season. Kennedy has added seven new players. Henry is far and away the most experienced player on the roster.

"Everybody's been on the same page since day one. Since the summer, we've been telling the freshmen that they're going to be thrown in without knowing what's going on. They're going to have to play and get acquainted to how we play," Henry said.

"I've been seeing a big difference. We've got everybody working hard. This is the hardest we've worked since I've been here. From the freshmen up to me and Stead, we've been working real hard."

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