Stepping Up

If college basketball is indeed a results-oriented business, Ole Miss guard LaDarius White was, at a time, all but bankrupt.

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Ole Miss finished 19-14 last season, missing the postseason altogether for just the second time in the previous eight seasons under head coach Andy Kennedy. In turn, Kennedy overhauled his roster, ushering in five new players while saying goodbye to a handful of others.

Though his future was in doubt, White, who averaged 7.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 21.5 minutes last season, remained. His role, however, was unclear. Of the five newcomers, three were guards.

“I think the competition has made him better,” Kennedy said. “It’s kept him on edge. He’s going to have to be better today, because we got guys. It gives us another body, and a guy who is different than anybody on our team.”

White could have easily faded into the basketball abyss, become a forgotten man at the end of the bench while Ole Miss rebounded from its season-opening loss to Charleston Southern with five-straight wins.

Instead, he’s acted as a catalyst in the Rebels’ resurgence. Ole Miss won the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic last week with wins over then-No. 23 Creighton and Cincinnati. White scored 18 points off the bench in the win over Creighton, including 16 in the second half to spur a comeback. The Rebels trailed the Bluejays by six at halftime.

White was a perfect 6 of 6 from the field in the period. He made both of his 3-point attempts, while knocking down 2 of 2 free throws. He finished with a player efficiency rating of +21. Player efficiency is an all-in-one basketball rating. League average is 15.00.

“He’s the same Snoop that has been here the last couple of years,” guard Stefan Moody, who had 26 points against Cincinnati, said. “As soon as he gets in, he contributes and does what he do – put up shots, put up points.”

“He’s been probably our most consistent player if you look at numbers,” Kennedy said. “He’s certainly shown moments. Second half against Creighton was as good as I’ve seen him at Ole Miss.”

White signed with Ole Miss in the class of 2011 to high expectations. He was seen as a key piece, along with Jarvis Summers, to the future of Rebel basketball, especially after a few recruiting misses that year, which included five-star forward Johnny O’Bryant.

For much of the recruiting year, White was the highest-rated player in the class – a fact not lost on Kennedy three years later.

“I just expect more,” Kennedy said. “He came out of that big class. Johnny O’Bryant, Rodney Hood, Jarvis. I really felt like Snoop had a chance to be a tremendous player. My hope is that his senior year he will embrace the approach you have to take and he’ll be consistent.”

So far, he has. He’s averaging 13.0 points per game over his last five and is shooting 59 percent (23 of 39) from the floor. He started the season 2 of 9 from the field.

He’ll get another opportunity tonight at 8 p.m. when the Rebels host TCU as a part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. TCU is 7-0 on the year after knocking off Bradley and Mississippi State to claim the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic title last week.

Ole Miss is 3-1 all-time against TCU, winning the last three matchups with the Horned Frogs. The game will be broadcast by ESPNU.

“It’s part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge and I understand the importance of such things,” Kennedy said. “TCU is undefeated, just as Cincinnati was and Creighton was. I understand how the RPI works, and they’re going to have quality opportunities through the course of (the Big 12).

“It’s probably (TCU head coach) Trent (Johnson’s) best team. Last year they had a tough go of it, didn’t win a league game. Had a couple kids sitting out, a couple kids hurt. They’re much more athletic, getting good guard play.”

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