Managing Marshall

Ole Miss will open its season at Vanderbilt in less than a week. Andy Kennedy, like all Rebel fans, is looking forward to the season.

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But whether or not Kennedy makes the trip to Nashville, Tenn., next Thursday is in real doubt. Kennedy, who could be found on the sidelines for a few practices in fall camp, is scheduled for a minor knee procedure Friday morning - his sixth separate knee operation.

A byproduct of a lifetime of basketball.

"Assuming that goes as well as I hope, my plan is to be in Nashville Thursday night," Kennedy said. "I'm really excited. I've had a chance to go out and see (Ole Miss head coach) Hugh (Freeze) and his group. I'm like all Rebel fans; I'm really looking forward to the season."

But Ole Miss is also within shouting distance of basketball season, and questions abound for the Rebels, who reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in 10 years last season following an SEC tournament championship.

Not the least of which, the status of star guard Marshall Henderson. Kennedy suspended Henderson July 10 for a violation of team rules. Henderson was named SEC tournament MVP and led the conference in scoring (20.1 points per game) as a junior.

"Since the suspension, he's really been 100 percent compliant with the plan we have in place in order for him to work his way back and have an opportunity to be reinstated on our team," Kennedy, who signed a four-year contract extension in April and holds a 152-87 record in his seven seasons as head coach, said.

Marshall Henderson
USA TODAY images

"We start school on Monday. The plan is for him to be enrolled, to be in class. As we begin workouts as it relates to weights and conditioning and on-court stuff, he's going to be an active member in all of that. Obviously, the only thing that is still pending is when we get to those games in November. He will miss game action. The extent of that is yet to be determined. A lot of that is based on how he continues to respond moving forward."

Henderson started 33 games in 2012-13 and set the NCAA single-season record for 3-point attempts (394), as well as the SEC mark for 3s made in a season with 141. But he was known as much for his flamboyant on-the-court behavior as his prolific scoring ability.

His suspension stemmed from a failed drug test, as has been widely reported.

"Bottom line, I'm just trying to get him to grow up and mature and understand," Kennedy said. "Our demands for him and our standard for him is high. He understands that, and that's the reason we had to take the drastic step that I did and suspending him this summer based on the standard with which he had not met."

Ole Miss recently finalized its 2013-14 schedule with the release of the SEC slate of games by the league office on Tuesday. Ole Miss opens conference play at home versus Auburn on Jan. 9, which marks just the fourth time in 16 years Ole Miss has opened SEC action at home. Notable home games include Kentucky, Missouri and Florida.

The Rebels' non-conference schedule is highlighted by a home game against Pac-12 tournament champion Oregon. The Ducks won 28 games last season, and advanced to the NCAA tournament Sweet 16. Ole Miss also hits the road for games at Kansas State and Western Kentucky.

"It's a little unusual. For us, we both open at home and end at home. Last year was the direct opposite," Kennedy said. "With an 18-game league schedule and there being no East and West as it relates to divisions, things are a lot different as it relates to our schedule. I think our non-league is as challenging as it's been since I've been here. We've got some early tests, including going to play at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn where we'll play Georgia Tech, then the winner/loser of St. John's and Penn State. We turn right around and as part of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge go to Manhattan, Kansas, to play a Kansas State that was an NCAA tournament team last year. Follow that up with an Oregon team that advanced to the Sweet 16 last year. So there are a lot of highlights early in our season.

"Once you get into the SEC grind, this year it just so happens we get Kentucky twice. We get Florida and Missouri in our building. There are a lot of teams that are a lot like us. Everybody understands that Kentucky may be the consensus No. 1 team in the country. Florida is coming off three consecutive Elite Eights. Those teams have set the standard. Everybody's looking to see who's going to finish three through 14. With us, with the question mark as it relates to Marshall and where do we go from here, with the question mark as it relates to these young bigs that we have coming in and how quickly Demarco Cox and Aaron Jones come back from their injuries, there's a lot of things that could play out and make this season very interesting."

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