Rod says hoops Rebs progressing slowly

The Rebel hoopsters have practiced for one week. They open the official regular season in four weeks at the New Mexico tourney. Rod Barnes says there's a lot of work to be done in a short time. Fans are welcomed at Saturday's 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. practice at the coliseum.

The Ole Miss men's basketball team has been practicing a week now. While Rod Barnes say the talent is better, which we all know, he says the learning has been going somewhat slowly.

That's because with so few veterans and so many newcomers, only a week together hasn't been nearly enough to get them to mesh as a team. They continue to make early-practice mistakes, but Rod says with each passing day, there is improvement.

"I love our intensity," he said. "The kids are working so hard. The focus has been good so far, but not great."

It seems like a mixed bag of positives and negatives to this point. That can be expected with a team of half old and half new players. Some of them have caught Rod's attention.

"Jeremy Parnell has been the surprise of the week," he said. "I've been really impressed with him.

"Todd Abernethy has shot the basketball well. Dwayne Curtis has been Dwayne Curtis. He's had a good week."

Rod says each practice is so important to what they are trying to accomplish at this juncture.

"We've put a lot of demands on them, and they've responded," he said. "We're more athletic. We're bigger. We're faster. But there is a lot of teaching to be done, and we're doing that every day."

That's why Saturday morning's 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. practice at C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum is open to the fans in town for Ole Miss-Kentucky football, but it won't be an intrasquad scrimmage.

"We've got so much teaching to do with these young players that I want the fans to understand they will be coming to a regular practice and not a scrimmage game," Rod said, almost apologetically.

But most fans will be happy to see what this year's team looks like in whatever the practice situation of the day. One look and it's obvious this is not the same team from the past three years – sizewise or otherwise.

"This team is eventually going to be good," Rod said. "But we've got a ways to go. We'll get there, and we're ready to be there now. But we've got a lot to do to get ready for this season, and every practice session is important."

Rod also mentioned some other players and their progress.

"Clarence Sanders, Xavier Hansbro, Trey Hampton, even Brian Smith who didn't play much last year, are all getting into the mix and the flow of things. Clarence has been defending well but his shooting has been up and down. Dwayne Curtis practiced last year but didn't play in the games. He will be good one day and unbelievable the next day.

"Todd continues to shoot better and we need him to do that. Mike Smith is one of the biggest surprises so far. We're getting his weight down and working on his conditioning so he can get up and down the floor. Londrick Nolen, Brandon Patterson, and Bam Doyne have all been consistent so far. Marquis Young may be the farthest behind of the newcomers."

In a nutshell, Rod has been doing this week what he loves to do and one of the things he does best – teaching and instructing and leading his players from one day to the next. His practices are intense. They are tough. And Saturday fans can see one of them up close and personal as the Rebels shoot toward the season-opening tournament in New Mexico in four weeks.

"This team has great upside, and we all know that," Rod said. "It has great potential and we haven't come close to reaching it by any means. But we're working at it every day."

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