Kennedy ready for start of official practice

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy, the interim head coach at Cincinnati last season, is about to get rolling in his first season as the head coach of the Rebels. The Bearcats of the Big East Conference finished 21-13 in 2005-06.

Andy Kennedy's been on the job at Ole Miss for slightly more than six months. In that short time period, he's already had a huge impact on Rebel hoops.

Hiring (or in the case of Michael White retaining) a youthful and energetic staff of tireless workers, Ole Miss men's basketball has taken some positive steps toward building for the future - a future that begins this weekend with the start of official practice.

Kennedy and staff have added five players to the program for this year alone, although David Huertas (6-foot-5, 195-pound guard), a sophomore who transferred from Florida, will sit out this season by rule. He will have three years left to play beginning in 2007-08.

But Andy Ogide (6-8, 225, freshman forward), Eniel Polynice (6-5, 200, freshman guard), and Rodney Jones (6-3, 190, freshman guard), along with juco transfer Kenny Williams (6-8, 240, junior forward), can all play this season.

Kennedy says as offseason conditioning and workouts have moved toward the start of official practices, he is excited about what those players bring to the table for the Rebels.

"The freshmen I could not be more pleased with on or off the floor," he said. "Andy Ogide, Rodney Jones, and Eniel Polynice are all going to be very good players in this program and also solid additions to this university. Quality kids who are capable players. That's the bottom line. David Huertas, the transfer (from Florida), will add a level of toughness to our team. Even though he's sitting out this year, he will bring a tremendous boost to us. He's going to help us in day to day preparation this year. And Kenny Williams is a couple of years older and a couple of years stronger and he's got experience at the junior college level. I think he's a guy who can make an immediate impact. He brings a toughness and a ruggedness to his approach. Physically he has a lot of talent and can help us."

Of course another virtual newcomer will be 6-5, 185, sophomore guard Justin Cerasoli, who was in the program last season after transferring from Seton Hall University of the Big East. Like Huertas this season, Cerasoli sat out last year, according to NCAA rule.

Cerasoli should be a big contributor, likely at point guard, this season. He had a setback in the summer with a hand injury. It's caused him to be behind some in conditioning and workouts since lifting weights and shooting and handling the basketball have been a challenge.

But he should be ready to go and with time will get back into the form that is expected to produce good results for Rebel hoops.

Kennedy says he is excited that his first season at Ole Miss is actually here, but he hasn't really had a lot of time to let it soak in that he is indeed the head coach.

"I've really never done that," he said of relishing the role as "head coach" of a major Division I institution. "I don't think there's enough time to think about things like that. In bigtime college athletics it's a different type of mentality. To the common fan this may be shocking and they may wonder why I'm even doing this. But I just don't think you have time to stop and smell the roses when you're in the process. I really don't. I think the time to reflect is when it's over. The mentality of this program is that we're going to grind one day to the next. I think that's the only way you can do it. In this sport, the games come so quickly. With a 30 to 35 game schedule, you don't have time to stop and enjoy it or you'll lose the next game.

"I've been a part of teams that have won 30 games, teams that have won 25 or 27 games," he continued. "You can't really enjoy those until you have time to reflect years later. It's just the nature of the sport. From the time I was the interim head coach at Cincinnati to this day coaching in my homestate, 100 miles from where I was born and raised and in the Southeastern Conference, I don't have time to reflect or dwell on that. That would be a disservice to the program and the kids in this program. We've got a lot of work to do."

*** There'll be more Rebel and Lady Rebel basketball news/stories in the days ahead as preseason practice begins this weekend.

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