Meet the Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Terrance Henry arrived at SEC Basketball Media Day in a suit and tie Thursday, dressed the part of the newly crowned face of Ole Miss basketball.

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For the last two seasons, the responsibility of meeting the media in the ballroom of the Wynfrey Hotel was held by Chris Warren, one of the more prolific scorers in Ole Miss history.

Now, that responsibility falls to Henry, who was third on the team in scoring last season. Henry played in all 34 games with 32 starts, and enters his senior season ranked eighth in school history with 78 blocked shots.

"My role? Simple, just being the leader on team, being that guy that everybody needs to look up to when they need help," Henry said.

Henry averaged 9.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks last season. He has a chance to join the 1,000-point club this year. Ole Miss was picked by a select panel of both SEC and national media to finish seventh overall in the league this season.

"It's just picks to me," Henry said. "You know, it's going to all play out at the end of the season, and we'll see then. We're capable of a top four finish, to me."

Ole Miss is two weeks into its preparations for the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe Nov. 11. The Rebels host North Alabama in an exhibition contest a week from today.

Henry said the players have meshed well in their short time together. Players were allowed to participate in individual instruction prior to this month, but now the team is full go in regular practices.

"Since we started, I think every day we've brought the right effort, the right attitude. We're paying attention to detail and everything. It's been good. I think the approach this year is a little better. Once we start, everybody knows all playing time is over with. It's focus time. We're fixing to get through this practice and get better every day."

Andy Kennedy
Associated Press

Henry said the ultimate goal is the NCAA tournament. Ole Miss last played in the Big Dance in 2002.

"Our overall approach as a team, we've brought a focus that I haven't seen since I've been here at Ole Miss. This group's been focused and ready to play," Henry said. "I think it's us vets that's been through it two or three years.

"We're just sick of it, you know? We laid it down to the young guys that we're going to work hard, so y'all are going to have to do the same thing we do. They've been following that pretty good."

Holloway good to go:

Murphy Holloway was cleared to play immediately by the SEC Wednesday afternoon, the final hurdle in the junior forward officially joining the team.

"I was always very optimistic from day one, because ultimately I felt as if the NCAA and most definitely our league would do what was in the best interest of the student-athlete," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "All of the particulars involved with Murphy's situation, we felt optimistic that once those were presented, that they would do what they did, and that's protect Murph and give him the opportunity he deserves. We're excited. Murph was relieved. Ole Miss basketball got better yesterday."

Holloway was cleared by the NCAA Oct. 14. He has been practicing with the team in full since his rejoining the team in July. He transferred back to Ole Miss from South Carolina in April.

"For him, the transition's been seamless," Kennedy said. "It's ironic that our most experienced player in Terrance, he and Murphy came in together (in the signing class of 2008). It's been a seamless transition for Murphy. He immediately comes and brings a physical presence to our front line, which we need, allowing Terrance to move more out to the small forward position."

With the addition of Holloway, Henry will play his more natural position, the three, with Holloway at the four. Holloway led Ole Miss in rebounding in each of his first two seasons at Ole Miss from 2008-10.

Holloway's 259 rebounds in 2010 ranks 10th in school history.

"Words can't even explain," Henry said. "Murph, he's a workhorse for us. It's great to have him back. You know, that'll open it up for me to play a little bit out on the perimeter. That was big because I think my natural position is a three."

"It allows Terrance to move away from the basket. All of the sudden, now you have another guy who can get SEC rebounds," in Holloway, Kennedy said. "You've got another guy who's been through SEC wars. You've got another guy that brings a physical nature which, quite frankly, is not Terrance's strength. It allows him to get out and play with his strength."

Murphy Holloway
Ole Miss

Holloway joins a front court already featuring Henry and junior forward Reginald Buckner, forming a formidable trio to help offset the significant losses of Warren and Zach Graham, the team's leading scorers last season.

Holloway informed Henry of his desire to return to Ole Miss during the SEC tournament in March. Henry's reaction? "It's going to be a helluva year this year."

"It's like he's never left," Henry said.

"He's blending right back in. I always messed with him that he wasn't going to be eligible this year. After I heard, I congratulated him, hugged him. He was just happy."

Ladner, Lady Rebel basketball looking to rebound:

Renee Ladner has confidence. She has never lacked in confidence, really.

Ole Miss finished 10-19 overall a year ago. The Rebels' season came to a close in the first round of the SEC tournament in Nashville, Tenn., in March, the 10th loss in 11 games to end the season.

"Lose 10 games, but nobody ever tells the rest of the story," Ladner said. "Yes, we lost 10 games at the end, but we lost our leading scorer and leading rebounder, and still competed at a high level with everybody except Tennessee and LSU."

But Ladner believes in the team she has assembled for her fourth-year effort as head coach. Again, she has confidence.

"What I see is a new batch of kids, a new attitude and a bunch of kids that are hungry to play," Ladner said.

Ole Miss returns four starters from last year's team and welcome five newcomers in a freshmen class that was ranked 45th nationally by ESPN HoopGurlz. The Rebels were picked last in the SEC by select league and national media.

"I don't put a lot of stock in (the ranking) right now," Ladner said. "Nobody knows what we know. You hope you don't have injury. You don't know how the teams are going to play out. It's a dog fight every night. Who's going to be the best? Who's going to be the worst? No one knows.

"I think the SEC has one, two, three very tough teams, and then put the rest of us in a jar, shake us up and throw us out. It'll keep changing throughout the course of the season."

Renee Ladner
Associated Press

Among those returning is sophomore point guard Valencia McFarland, who was named to the All-SEC second team. McFarland posted one of the best seasons by a freshman in school history in her debut season. She led the team in minutes, field goals, free throw percentage, assists, steals and points.

Forward Nikki Byrd is one of three seniors. Byrd started 10 games as a junior and averaged 7.3 points per game. She tied for third on the team 5.3 rebounds per game. Ladner said it's time for Byrd to take her game to the next level.

"I think it's her turn. It's her time," Ladner said. "Nikki's her own worst enemy. Nikki puts more pressure on herself than anybody could ever put on her. She has preconceived notions about what she should do and when she doesn't, she fights within herself.

"From a psychological standpoint, I just want her to bring great effort and play with consistent effort. When she plays with consistent effort, she is a very good post player. Her entire career, it's been very inconsistent. I don't know if she does that to herself or maybe we start expecting too much. All those things combined have kept her from having a really solid career. This year, I want her to play consistently. Don't put that extra pressure on yourself, ‘cause Nikki's very talented. She just sometimes makes the game hard."

Byrd echoed her head coach. She has to be more consistent. This is her final year at Ole Miss. This is her opportunity.

"I'm trying to get there," Byrd said of consistent play. "I can't say that I've reached that point. If you say you've reached it, then you stop. I don't ever want to stop. I'm still trying to get there."

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