Leaving a Legacy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jarvis Summers wasn’t Andy Kennedy’s first choice.

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But now he’s among his favorite players to ever coach.

Kennedy signed Summers in the fall of 2010. Ole Miss was the only high-major offer for the now-senior Rebel guard, who has since gone on to become just the fourth player in SEC history with 1,600 career points and 500 career assists.

Summers jumped at the opportunity. And when he did, he made a commitment to himself to show all the schools that passed on him how big of a mistake they made.

“I just told myself I was going to outwork my opponents and show everybody they should have picked me first,” said Summers, who heads the seventh senior class in Ole Miss history with two NCAA tournament trips.

“But it worked out well. I’m here.”

But he almost wasn’t.

Summers ranked behind, among others, higher-rated prospects Rashad Madden and Shane Larkin on Ole Miss’ recruiting board. Madden was actually the top target for the Rebels and was expected to sign with Kennedy and staff before instead opting for Arkansas at the last minute. Larkin upped with Miami (Fla.).

Ultimately, Kennedy had to settle for the under-the-radar guard just down the road.

Good thing, too.

“Jarvis Summers, to me, is a guy that has maxed his potential,” Kennedy said. “I believe that. I think we were the only high-major to offer. He’s a guy that came in and has really, really worked. He’s been steady since day one. He’s had his ups and downs. He’s always owned it.”

“I respect A.K. to the max,” Summers said. “He gave me a chance to play for my home state. I’m just thankful to be here.”

No player currently on the roster has the trust of Kennedy more than Summers. This season is proof positive.

After a year in which he earned All-SEC honors and averaged 17.3 points per game, Summers is scoring a little over 12 points and is shooting under 34 percent from the floor. He’s scored single-digit points in 14 games, and his long-range stroke has all but disappeared. He’s shooting 25 percent from 3 as a senior, down from 42.3 percent a year ago.

Granted, he’s dealt with an ankle injury, back spasms and other various ailments, but his issues – as both Kennedy and Summers will admit – have been principally rooted in a lack of confidence in his shot.

“It’s crazy, but you can’t make excuses in this game,” Summers said. “You’ve got to keep moving forward and take care of your body and do whatever it takes to get a win.

“I’m OK. It’s the end of the season. Whatever it takes. If I’ve got to score zero points but with 10 assists, that’s what I’ll do.”

Summers was 1 for 11 in the first half against BYU in the first round of the NCAA tournament Tuesday night. The Rebels trailed by 17 and their season was a half away from being over. Other coaches might have been tempted to sit Summers in favor of capable backup Terence Smith.

Not Kennedy.

“I said, ‘Dude, I’m riding with you, man. You’ve put us in this position. You’ve earned that. I trust you. Go make plays, man,’” Kennedy said. “He captained the ship. That’s what he did.”

Summers responded with 11 points on 5 of 21 from the floor. But his final numbers went far beyond scoring. He influenced the game in others ways, picking up his second career double-double with 10 assists. He turned the ball over only once while also adding five rebounds.

With the win the Rebels advanced to play Xavier in the second round today at 3:10 CST on TBS.

“Going into the tournament, it’s a new season,” Summers said. “The regular season, that’s in the past now. I can’t go back. I’ve got to keep moving forward, continue to work and do whatever I got to do.”

Whenever Ole Miss’ time runs out in the NCAA tournament, whether it be today or in the national championship game in Indianapolis, Ind., Kennedy will soon have to say goodbye to his lead guard. His captain. One of the most accomplished players in Ole Miss history.

And the one who almost got away.

“I just want to go down as one of the best at the position and as one of the best winners in (Ole Miss) history,” he said. “I didn’t know coming out of high school. I’m blessed to be here.”

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