UM honors Nolen at reception; Kennedy speaks

Ole Miss honored Londrick Nolen as the lone senior for 2005-06. New men's hoops head coach Andy Kennedy had a few words to say about his first month on the job in Oxford.

It was short, but having only one senior will do that to a season-ending banquet.

It was actually more like a reception, which was fine, as the evening was low-key, casual, and well-attended.

Several people spoke, like Michael White, Pete Boone, and Andy Kennedy. And they all agreed on one thing: The event was all about Londrick Nolen, the lone senior on the 2005-06 Ole Miss Rebel basketball squad.

"I wish I had one more year," said Nolen, the Memphian who played two seasons in Oxford after a juco career at Southwest Tennessee Community College, when he got up to say a few words.

"I think I'd be fantastic," the personable Nolen said, breaking the room into laughter. "I appreciate all the support I've gotten since I've been here."

"I wish you had one more year, too," said new Rebel head coach Kennedy to Nolen when it was his turn at the microphone. "Because of the way we do things and because of the player I know you are, I'd like to have you here next year."

Obviously that won't happen as Nolen's allotted playing time according to NCAA rules is done. But he is set to get his degree in May, and that brought more applause from a room full of Ole Miss people.

"In just a few days, Londrick will graduate from The University of Mississippi," assistant coach White said of the criminal justice major. "I'm glad I was a part of your two-year career here, and I know I speak for the former coaching staff in thanking you for your commitment to us and to Ole Miss. Our doors are always open to you. You'll always be a Rebel."

Kennedy agreed.

"Even though I didn't have the opportunity to coach you, I want you to know we're always here for you and hope to see you often," Kennedy said.

The new Rebel head coach said it's hard to fathom that he's already been here as long as he has in his new job.

"More than a month," he said. "Hard to believe. It's been fast. I don't think I've spent but five or six nights in Oxford the entire time. The first thing was to get our arms around these kids. I've been incredibly impressed with how these players have responded. I want the players to take ownership of this thing, and I am seeing them do that already."

Kennedy said more of what we've heard from him before. Still good stuff.

"I'm very serious about being here and coming home as a Mississippian. We will do what we came here to do, and that is put The University of Mississippi in its rightful place," he said in all sincerity before lightening the mood a bit. "My door is always open to you, and I am sure there are a few opinions out there (audience laughter). I am receptive to those an extent."

More laughter as Kennedy wrapped up the meeting and reception, which was sponsored by the Ole Miss Rebel Tipoff Club with Judy Watt Conner as president.

Here are some UM hoops tidbits from the evening:

*** Rodney Jones, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard from Peabody High School in Alexandria, La., did not attend the function but is on campus and in Oxford at this time. Jones was a First-Team All-State selection and was the AAAA Player of the Year in Louisiana. He led legendary Coach Charles Smith's team to 108 wins in his three years at Peabody, including a 41-0 record his sophomore year. As a senior, Jones averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds.

*** Also visiting this weekend will be Point Guard Devan Downey, who played for Kennedy at Cincinnati last year and has asked for, and received, his release from the Bearcats program. Downey will be in Oxford Friday and Saturday.

*** There was a positive feeling that 6-8 power forward Andy Ogide from Paulding County High School in Dallas, Ga., is leaning even more to Ole Miss than maybe thought recently. He could decide by early next week. His other options appear to be Georgia and Vanderbilt.

*** All current players were in attendance except these: Marquis Young and Mike Smith, and it is believed neither will return for next year. Also Brandon Patterson hurt a shoulder in a pickup game Thursday and was not at the reception. However, it is believed Patterson is leaning to returning to Ole Miss next year. Clarence Sanders was not at the reception, but, like Patterson, he too is thought to be leaning toward returning.

*** A number of players, like Brian Smith, Todd Abernethy, Trey Hampton, Xavier Hansbro, Jermey Parnell, Dwayne Curtis, Justin Cerasoli, and Bam Doyne, were headed in a number of different directions for some portions of the summer, but all said they would be in Oxford for at least one semester of summer school. I believe the entire team may be here for first semester summer school and then can be gone for second semester summer school as they choose.

*** The Tipoff Club was down to about 50 members not long ago. Now that number is 200, with a goal of 500 next season.

"Watch out Ernie," said Conner, directing her comments to Bullpen Club president Ernie LaBarge who was in attendance. "I'm coming after you."

LaBarge reported the Bullpen Club totaled some 1,300 now.

"I'm still coming after you," Conner said, with more laughter from those in attendance.

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