It's May, so college basketball is a long way from everyone's mind currently. But not for Rod Barnes and staff.
It's basketball season year ‘round in their offices at Tad Smith Coliseum, with everything from finishing up recruiting to getting ready for camps to offseason workouts to scheduling for next year.
"We're looking at a lot of (high school) juniors during this period and also some junior college guys (perhaps for the upcoming season)," Barnes said. "We've been waiting to make sure our (incoming) kids graduate and become eligible. If they do, that's great. Those are the kids we originally went after. If they don't, we've been working on a backup plan."
The biggest question appears to be 6-foot-9, 340-pound center Carl Swanigan. Perhaps the most highly-touted member of the incoming class, Swanigan still has some work to do to become eligible, it appears.
For the most part, all the others are in better shape as far as being a part of the Rebel basketball program this summer.
The other signees are 6-6, 205, Bobby Clark; 6-9, 275, Marquis Young; 6-7, 240, Mike Smith; 6-7, 215, Trey Hampton; 6-9, 200, Xavier Webb; and 6-2, 180, Clarence Sanders.
And don't forget 6-9, 290, Dwayne Curtis, who has been in the program a year, and who Barnes believes will be a force in the middle next season.
"We'll know everything by July 1, and for the most part we feel good," said Barnes of the incoming players. "We're just waiting for everything to finish up, and then we'll know."
Currently there are seven Rebel players participating in workouts – Todd Abernethy, Brian Smith, Bam Doyne, Brandon Patterson, Londrick Nolen, Jeremy Parnell, and Curtis. At the present time, Lonnie Jackson has an injury and is not able to work out.
It appears the Rebels might add another player to the mix for the coming year, maybe a combo guard.
"It's been a good spring for us," said Barnes, mentioning not having to deal with staff changes like last year nor any defections from the program as in some years. "We're so much farther along now, and there is more stability. It's been a better spring because we've been working toward the future, and we know where we are headed. Our players have gotten better and they all want to be here. Since the end of the season, it has been real positive for us."
The Rebels are still working on their schedule for the upcoming season. Some of the slate's highlights include Memphis coming to Oxford following last season's 65-53 loss to the Rebels at the FedEx Forum. The Rebels and Tigers will play Sat., Dec. 3 in a televised game (specific network not yet named).
Saint Louis University will play at Tad Smith Coliseum on Tues., Dec. 13. The Rebels will play at Illinois-Chicago in a regular season contest, and UIC will come to Oxford the following season.
Playing teams from the Midwest, like Saint Louis and Illinois-Chicago, are not really a surprise since the Rebels are recruiting heavily in the corridor directly north from Oxford all the way to Milwaukee, where they opened this past season in the BCA Tournament.
"We feel we have some strong ties up that way," Barnes said. "We feel we can be very competitive in recruiting in that area. We've been to Milwaukee and now we are going to Chicago and also playing Saint Louis. We feel presenting our program to the Midwest can make some good things happen for us."
The Rebels will play in a tournament at New Mexico Nov. 18-20 to open the season after an exhibition game or two at home. Arkansas State comes to Oxford to finish up that series.
Ole Miss is currently in talks with a couple of West Coast teams about a home and home series starting in Oxford this year. But nothing is finalized yet with either. Washington State of the Pac-10 and the University of San Diego are the two Western schools in the mix right now.
"We're interested in playing a series with a West Coast team," Barnes said.
There is also the possibility of an off-campus home game again, this time perhaps in Jackson during the holidays. Rod says that opponent won't be Southern Mississippi. There are no plans to play the Golden Eagles in men's hoops anywhere, and Rod says there have been no official talks between UM and USM.
Barnes feels good about the direction his program has moved in the past year.
"We believe we're moving toward winning again and that we've made progress," he said. "We needed to do a better job of recruiting and I believe we have. We needed to play better and I believe we saw that this past season. From this point on, we just need to continue to do those things that will make us successful again. And I believe we will."
The Ole Miss baseball team hopes to extend its seven-game win streak with a 7 p.m. first-pitch tonight at Auburn.
The series from a coaching standpoint will have a little bit of a military college rivalry feel to it. The Tigers are under the direction of first-year head coach Tom Slater, who came to Auburn from Florida where he had served as an assistant for one year.
Prior to that, Slater was the head coach at his alma mater, Virginia Military Institute, where he'd served as head coach from 2001-03. Before that he'd been an Auburn assistant for six seasons.
Auburn first-year assistant coach Chris Finwood is also a VMI graduate and was actually the Keydets head coach from 1992-94.
In the Rebels' dugout will be two Citadel guys – UM assistant coaches Dan McDonnell and Kyle Bunn. McDonnell played at The Citadel and was the second baseman on the Bulldogs' 1990 College World Series team. He was an assistant coach there when he left to join Mike Bianco at Ole Miss in 2000.
Bunn was an all-star pitcher for The Citadel when McDonnell was an assistant there.
Not that any of the above will have all that much to do with the outcome of the Ole Miss-Auburn series this weekend. But The Citadel and VMI are arch-rivals.
More than that, I am sure the VMI guys at Auburn have the same intense work ethic and organization and desire to succeed as The Citadel guys of Ole Miss do. It all just might lead to some good-natured ribbing at some point during the three games this weekend
That Slater is the head coach at Auburn is a bit of a surprise to me. The Tiger head coach the past five years had been Steve Renfroe, who played at Auburn and was a longtime assistant coach for former AU head coach Hal Baird.
But when the program didn't quite have the success that the powers of Auburn thought it should (and maybe some other reasons that I don't have a clue about), they made a change at the end of last season and brought Slater in.
I would have thought after more than 20 years of waiting as a player and an assistant that they'd give Renfroe more time to produce a big winner. But the program is now Slater's.
The Tigers are a dangerous 28-19 overall and 9-12 in the league and looking for that breakthrough weekend. The Rebels, 5-1 their last two SEC weekends as well as 34-13 overall and 12-9 in conference play, are hoping this is not that weekend.
The Ole Miss softball team swept Arkansas in Fayetteville earlier this week to conclude the first winning season in the nine-year history of the program.
Ole Miss finished 30-28 overall and 10-20 in the SEC. The Rebels outlasted Arkansas 1-0 in nine innings in the series finale on Wednesday night to pick up a sweep and assure the program of its first winning campaign.
The win Wednesday also marked the 10th victory of the season in Southeastern Conference play for the Rebels, marking the most conference wins ever for an Ole Miss softball team.
Unfortunately the Rebels fell just short of their goal of making the 8-team SEC Tournament as they finished in a tie for 8th but lost out in a tiebreak situation.
Congrats anyway to the Ole Miss softball team on its first winner.
Roy Lee "Chucky" Mullins – July 8, 1969-May 6, 1991 – Great Ole Miss Rebel.
Laura Jane Gentry Roberson – March 18, 1928-May 6, 1971 – Loving wife, daughter, and my mother.
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