Still Waiting

Nick Williams recently graduated. Now, he's working on a second degree. There's little left to accomplish in his college career.

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Well, there is one thing. One thing that weighs on his mind. Ole Miss failed to make the NCAA tournament in any of his first three seasons in Oxford. Actually, the Rebels haven't made the tournament since 2001-02.

Ole Miss came close again last season, his junior year, finishing 20-14 overall. The Rebels were eliminated by Illinois State in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

"We didn't really end (the season) on the kind of note that we wanted to. But we can see how much progress we made," Williams, now a senior, said. "We see where we need to be and what it takes to get over that hump.

"We played some good basketball. We finally came together as a team. Everybody saw our chemistry and how well we played together down the stretch. So, we've got to build on that this summer."

Ole Miss won five of its last seven games, including two wins in the SEC tournament, to get in position for a possible NCAA tournament berth in March. But the CBS selection show came and went. Ole Miss was left out.

Williams took the news harder than most. Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy has often preached for his team to not just be hungry for the NCAA tournament, but to starve for it. Williams is starving.

Nick Williams
Associated Press

"Me, I think about it all the time. You're so close year after year. It's kind of a drain. How do we play better? What can we do to get over this hump? I think about it every day," he said.

"It's been a team goal since A.K.'s been here, since I've been here. It's hard to not make it when you know you've played your heart out. But you've got to keep going, just got to keep fighting. A.K. tells us all the time, you can't be hungry for it; you've got to be starving for it. When you're starving for it, you're going to make it."

This summer, like every summer, is all about strength and conditioning. Williams said most of the returning players are already in town. Most, if not all, of the 2012 signees will be arriving in June and July.

"Mostly, everybody comes around and stays for both summer sessions. After school, you get like a two and a half week period to go home and be with your family. As soon as summer school starts, we're right back at it with conditioning and just working on our games," he said.

"Summer is basically just to get better. The most important aspect of getting better is working out in the summer. We can build relationships with those (new) guys when we're working out and show them how we work and how hard it's going to be for guys to get on the floor and get minutes. All that stuff starts in the summer. It's just builds camaraderie."

Ole Miss added six players to its roster. Consistent among the six is their ability to score. Ole Miss sorely lacked in scoring last season, especially from the 3-point line. Ole Miss was middle of the pack in the conference in most offensive categories last season.

"With the new guys coming in, I feel like they'll give us an added element of outside scoring," Williams said. "Last year, we had Reg (gie Buckner) and Murph (y Holloway), one of the best power forward-center tandems in the SEC. We played through those guys. Any help is good help."

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