Spring Rewards

Andy Kennedy knew what he was looking for in the spring signing period.

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There were no unforeseen departures, save for the two players he dismissed in January, Dundrecous Nelson and Jamal Jones. No Murphy Holloway up and leaving for South Carolina. Or Terrico White entering the NBA Draft.

Kennedy had specific needs in mind when he hit the trail this spring. He needed an influx of scoring. Ole Miss was sorely lacking in perimeter scoring in 2011, ranking ninth out of 12 teams in the Southeastern Conference.

Ole Miss finished 20-14 last season, its season ending in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

"We had specific needs based on the makeup of our team," Kennedy said. "The changes we had unexpectedly in early January, we had to fill some voids in order for our team to take the next step."

But at least those changes came in January, and not April. Kennedy had time.

Kennedy signed four players (Marshall Henderson, Jason Carter, Derrick Millinghaus and Terry Brutus) in the spring signing period, to go with two players (Martavious Newby and Anthony Cortesia) signed in the fall.

Henderson, who was announced as the NJCAA Player of the Year Thursday, headlines the spring signees. He ranked 13th in the nation in scoring with 19.6 points per game last season, in leading South Plains (Texas) Community College to a national championship and perfect 36-0 season.

He scored 32 points to spur the Texans on to a 81-68 victory over Northwest Florida State College in the title game, making 5 of 12 3-points and 13 of 13 free throws. Formerly of Utah, he shot 43 percent from 3 on the year.

Marshall Henderson
File Photo

"One of the areas we were terribly inefficient in was our ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter, so we had to go out and make that a priority and fill that void. We feel we helped ourselves with the addition of Marshall Henderson," Kennedy said.

"After we dismissed two kids in early January, we immediately wanted to scour the country to find the best available guards that we could. We feel like in Marshall we fill that void. Here's a kid that we think from day one will be able to step in and help us with perimeter scoring."

The 6-foot-8, 230-pound Carter adds to an already deep front court led by Holloway and senior Reginald Buckner. Ole Miss has depth to spare, with veteran Demarco Cox and rising sophomore Aaron Jones, who came on strong towards the end of his freshman season.

Kennedy said he recruited Carter heavily out of Christian Life Center Academy in Houston, Texas. "He's a guy that was a high priority for us," he said. Now in the fold by way of Chipola Community College, Carter brings a different weapon to Ole Miss' front line, according to Kennedy.

"He gives us a stretch four; a guy that can face the basket and shoot it out to 18, 20 feet," Kennedy said. "Primarily what he brings that we don't have is the ability to stretch a defense at that four spot. Similar to a Terry Brutus, the last guy that we got on board."

Brutus, of Spring Valley, N.Y., was the final addition, signed on April 13. Another big, his skill-set has drawn comparisons to Holloway: a big, strong, athletic and quick forward, with good -- and still developing -- ball skills.

The 6-foot-6 Brutus spent last season at Massanutten Military Academy.

"When you look at him, he's got an appropriate last name. He is a brute," Kennedy said. "His ball skills are tremendous for a kid his size. He's got the ability to handle it vs. pressure, pass it out of the high post. He's a guy you can run offense through. A prep school kid, so he comes in here a little bit older."

And then there's Millinghaus, a 5-foot-10 point guard cut from a Chris Warren/Devan Downey mold. Kennedy coached both undersized players, who each finished their respective careers with at least 2,000 points and 400 assists.

Only five players in SEC history reached such a milestone. Both were at one time coached by Kennedy.

Andy Kennedy
Associated Press

"He's an explosive point. I don't want to sound blasphemous, but when I see him play, he reminds me of a kid I had in Devan Downey," Kennedy said of Millinghaus, who averaged 28 points per game at Queen City (N.Y.) Prep.

Millinghaus originally signed with St. Bonaventure in the recruiting class of 2011.

"He's not as fast as Downey, but he's explosive like Downey and he has the uncanny ability to finish over size at the rim," Kennedy added.

"And he shoots the ball like Chris Warren. He can really, really score from the perimeter."

With the four players signed in the spring and two signed in the fall, Ole Miss is two over its scholarship limit. Two players have to go. One obvious candidate is Jelan Kendrick, and sources indicated earlier this month that Maurice Aniefiok is likely to go, as well.

Kennedy didn't name names, saying only the situation would eventually work itself out.

"By next August, as we roll into the new academic year, we have to be down to 13 scholarship bodies," he said. "That will work its way out, I assure you. I'm not the brightest guy in the world, but I do realize that we have to be at 13. We'll be at that number when it counts, next August."

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