Role Call

NEW ORLEANS, La. -- LaDarius White fully understands the task ahead of him. Jelan Kendrick was suspended Tuesday for a violation of team rules. White now assumes the duties of backup point guard.

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He's in line for valuable minutes Thursday, when Ole Miss meets Auburn in the first round of the SEC tournament here in New Orleans.

Ole Miss, the No. 7 seed, and the Tigers, the No. 10 seed, take the court at 6:30 p.m. in a game broadcast by the SEC Network. The Rebels and Tigers split season series this year, with both teams winning at home.

"It's all about confidence. If you go out there on the court and you play without confidence, you're not going to have good results," White said. "I'm going to go out there, play hard and see what we can get."

White played 17 minutes in the team's regular season finale against Alabama, a 60-51 Ole Miss win. He scored 10 points, grabbed one rebound and recorded an assist. It was easily the most productive game for White since the conference-opening loss at LSU.

White made his Ole Miss debut Dec. 10 against Mississippi Valley State. The NCAA ruled White academically ineligible for the Fall semester. He had to sit out. But he immediately made an impression with 16 points on 6 of 12 shooting off the bench.

He averaged just over 17 minutes in his first eight games. However, in the games that followed, he was relegated to the bench. The minutes weren't there. He watched as Kendrick, also a freshman, handled most of playing time.

LaDarius White
Bruce Newman

"I told him all season, keep your head up," junior forward Reggie Buckner said. "His time was going to come. He's been working out. He's been the last one in the gym, getting shots up and working on plays. It's going to pay off for him."

Prior to Saturday, his most extensive action was against in-state rival Mississippi State, when he played 14 minutes and scored four points.

By sheer necessity, his time is now. Kendrick didn't travel with the team to New Orleans. Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said he'll review Kendrick's status at a later date. White has to play.

"It puts some added pressure on Snoop," Kennedy said. "It puts a burden, as it relates to minutes and productivity, on those other guys. But again, we've been through so much as it relates to personnel (this season) and how vastly we've had changes. Our guys understand who we are. We've just got to play as a group."

White, of McComb, Miss., admitted the lack of playing time from mid-January until Alabama weighed on him. White played sparingly against South Carolina, a win, but didn't see the floor for nearly two weeks.

"When I wasn't playing minutes like I was supposed to, I got down," he said. "It got to the point that I was like what do I have to do to play? So every day in practice, I'd go in and work hard. I knew my opportunity would come."

He leaned on senior forward Terrance Henry, the team leader, who continued to encourage White and show him the way. Henry has been in White's shoes. Same for Buckner. Like White, Buckner was highly recruited and used to being the best player on a given team.

White was rated a three-star recruit by He held offers from, among others, Ole Miss, Baylor and Mississippi State.

"Out of the freshman class, he's probably the most talented guy that we signed," Henry said. "It's all about mindset for him. That's it. It's a freshman thing. As he gets older and gets more mature and this year under his belt, he'll know going into the year what his focus needs to be."

"The transition from high school to college, it's different. He probably came from some school where he was the leading scorer and just the team, he was all they had," Buckner said.

LaDarius White

"Now he's surrounded by elite players. I told him to stay focused. He went into a little daze ‘cause he wasn't playing. But I told him his time was going to come."

His time is now.

Ole Miss enters the SEC tournament with an 18-12 (8-8 SEC) record and in need of at least two wins to get back into the NCAA tournament discussion.

Should Ole Miss beat Auburn (15-15, 5-11 SEC), it would meet No. 2 seed Tennessee Friday at 6:30 p.m.

"He's got more focus. He's ready to play," assistant coach Bill Armstrong said.

"He stepped up for us the other day (against Alabama) when we needed him to. I expect big things out of him. We need him to play that role, and he's ready."

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