The Southeastern Conference held its midsummer men's basketball teleconference today for the media. The following are Ole Miss Coach Rod Barnes' comments and the answers he gave to questions posed during his 10-minute visit by phone.
Q: Talk about your returning players for a moment.
Barnes: We feel really good about the kids we have who are returning. Probably the first returning player that people would know about would be Todd Abernethy. He is coming back at the point guard position and he has played a lot of minutes for us. We're excited about the opportunity he will have this season. Our next guy would be Londrick Nolen, a 6-6 kid who started off really well in the non-conference and then played well early in the conference season but then faded off a bit. Londrick has worked really hard this spring and has been in summer school this summer. It seems like he is really committed to having a really good year. Brandon Patterson is a kid that played a lot last year, a 6-6 swing guy that's a really good shooter for us. Jeremy Parnell, a kid that's 6-9 and now about 250 who is a really physical inside player. Those guys are the nucleus of our team as far as our returnees. Obviously we have a lot of new kids and had a really good recruiting class. One of the kids I'm especially fond of is Dwayne Curtis, who sat out last year. Dwayne's 6-9 and hopefully by the time we start we can get him down to about 250 or 255, somewhere in that range. Really good hands, good feet, really smart player. Brian Smith played for us last year and got spot time, but this year will be depended on a lot to be our backup point guard behind Todd Abernethy. One more kid here is also Bam Doyne who has played a lot. He's a really good defender, a good athlete. I think he will bring a lot of experience to a young basketball team.
Q: You made no secret last year that you knew you had to go recruiting and raise your talent level. Talk about that process and maybe a couple of guys that could contribute significantly.
Barnes: You're exactly right. We've done a lot of good things in our program, but the talent had fallen off. We had a great year from last spring through this spring. We started with hiring Tracy Dildy, who is one of the best recruiters in the country, and Michael White, who I think is one of the best young recruiters who just needs experience. The first guy who I think has a real chance to help us, and I just mentioned him, is Dewayne Curtis. He's got a chance to be an all-league player before he leaves here. Then there's (6-7, 215) Trey Hampton who can play both forward positions. He's a left-handed kid who I think really has chance to in the future be in the caliber of a previous player here, Ansu Sesay. I really think Trey's got a chance to be special. The junior college transfer Clarence Sanders I believe is one of the best scorers we have had here in a long time. So we feel we've put together a really good class. The depth is there. Of course we will be young. There's not a lot of experience. We have one senior on our team. That one guy is Londrick Nolen. Most of our kids are underclassmen. We have depth. We have good size. We're bigger than we've been since I've been the head coach here. There will be some great competition during practice, and we'll also be able to play a lot of players. From top to bottom this is as talented as we've been. But from top to bottom it's also as young as we've been.
Q: Talk more about Clarence Sanders.
Barnes: He's a kid that runs well and runs the court well. He plays with a good pace on the court with a great amount of intensity. He's a good free throw shooter and a good 3-point shooter. He has a good mid-range game. He scores in a lot of different ways. He's 6-2 and that's not that big an offguard in our league, but he plays with a lot intensity and I love that. That fits right in with what we like to do. He will be a guy who will shoot a lot of shots. He is a little bit in the framework of Joezon Darby but probably a little more explosive. He wil be even more of an impact for us than Joezon was.
Q: How many newcomers do you anticipate will be starting this year?
Barnes: Well I think we'll certainly have positions open. Dwayne Curtis will be on the floor. He will probably start at center or power forward. That just depends on the fall Jeremy Parnell has for us. We think Jeremy will also come along this fall. Clarence Sanders will have a great opportunity to start at two guard. And Trey Hampton we feel will have a great opportunity to play one of the forward positions. With Londrick Nolen and Brandon Patterson (returning), those are two pretty good wing guys. We feel there will be a lot of competition for the positions. A lot of the kids we've signed will definitely have an opportunity. And we really don't feel anybody we've signed would have to redshirt. That could be a good thing on one hand or a bad thing, I suppose. But the depth is there and the opportunity to start is there.
Q: With the league appearing to be younger this year, is this a good year to have a young team?
Barnes: It is. I really like the fact that we have a point guard who returns. This is the first point guard for us in a few years that's run the team back to back years. It's important to have quality and experience at point guard, which we have (in Todd Abernethy). And inside it is important to be strong, and we will be with Dwayne Curtis and Jeremy Parnell. The other positions are important, but maybe not as important in our system as having the post and the point as your strong areas. We feel solid there. This being a year with a lot of transition (in the league), it's a good time for us to be as young as we are.
SEC midsummer men's hoops teleconference
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