It's almost two months until the official start of practice and it's some three months until the first game. But all those involved with Ole Miss men's basketball are already anticipating the start of it all.
Of course as usual this time of year the hoopsters are in the strength and conditioning and individual workout mode. Now that classes have begun, the Rebels will be on a fairly routine schedule for the next few weeks as October gets closer and the dog days of summer move into the past.
"We got a good start in the classroom this past week which is very important," said Rod Barnes, entering his eighth season as head coach. "Our kids have been great doing what they're supposed to do. We'll start our workouts at 6 a.m. Monday."
Involved will be individual workouts, running, lifting, and conditioning.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Barnes said. "We've got a lot of new players to work with and some returning players who are ready to get started again."
It will not be an old Ole Miss basketball team. On the contrary, it will be very young. Only two players – junior guards Bam Doyne and Todd Abernethy – have been in the program for two years. Everybody else, one year or none.
"I feel good because I know we're more talented," Barnes said. "We'll have good character because we've got great kids. We'll have the opportunity to play more people, and we have an opportunity to get back to playing the way I like for us to play."
Barnes says it's been a while since he's been this excited about a preseason.
"I know we can really pressure people again, and I like that," he said. "We can get up and down the floor. We can use our depth to our advantage. Sure, it's going to take a while for it to all come together. But we'll be OK. That's why I am so ready to get started."
Gone are four starters and nine total letterwinners from last season's team which finished 14-17. Kendrick Fox, Justin Johnson, Cavadas Nunnery, Tommie Eddie, Chris Rhodes, Marvin Moore, Ed Glass, Lonnie Jackson, and Sam Agee are all no longer a part of the Rebel program.
Returning along with the 6-foot-4 Doyne and the 6-1 Abernethy are 6-6 senior forward Londrick Nolen, 5-11 sophomore guard Brian Smith, 6-6 sophomore guard Brandon Patterson, and 6-9 sophomore center Jeremy Parnell.
There are six newcomers on campus, counting 6-9 sophomore center Dwayne Curtis who was here last year but sat out after transferring from Auburn. The others are junior 6-2 shooting guard Clarence Sanders, 6-9 freshman forward Xavier Webb, 6-7 freshman forward Trey Hampton, 6-7 freshman forward Mike Smith, and 6-9 freshman center Marquis Young.
"First of all we're noticeably bigger," Barnes said. "That's easy to see at first glance. But you will also see more versatility. You will see guys who can do a lot of different things on the court. You will see guys who can succeed on both ends of the court. They can score and they can play defense."
Barnes says he knows the team is more inexperienced but that it will be fun watching them grow and mature and become a better team.
"I truly believe this team will show more maturity early than a typical young and inexperienced team," he said. "We're just deeper and we've got more guys who can come in and help. I think they will grow up in a hurry."
Barnes says inside the Rebels will be bigger than ever.
"Take Dwayne Curtis for starters," he said. "He's been in our program for a year. He came in over 300 pouinds. Now he's about 270 and a different player. He looks like a basketball player. His body definition is much better. Add Jeremy Parnell in there along with Marquis Young and others, you can just see the potential we have at the post."
It's that way throughout the team. Sanders arrives as one of the best junior college shooters in the country. Nolen, Patterson, and Hampton are also scoring threats. Abernethy and Smith will handle the point guard spot. Todd has trimmed down just a bit and looks more agile and quick on the court.
"We've got a chance to do some things," Barnes said, knowing October will be here before long. "The rules have changed this year a little as far as preseason goes. We can work with as many players as we want to at one time as long as we don't work more than two hours per week with each one.
"We'll divide into two groups for the next few weeks in our on the court workouts. We'll bring in our post players and our point guards in one group, and we'll have the 2s and 3s and forwards in another group. We'll go three 40-minute sessions per week per group. We'll stress development in all areas as we get to know this team and they get to know us. It's an exciting time around here."
UM hoops: Rebs start preseason workouts Monday
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