"I've been pleased with the guys' efforts for the most parts," said the first-year Rebel head coach. "There've been days I haven't been as pleased. But for the most part, they've reacted pretty well. We typically don't have to coach them to compete, which is good. It means we don't have to put the emphasis on that and we can try to put it back on the things that are important for us to be successful. We have a long way to go."
The biggest setbacks so far have been Justin Cerasoli's slow recovery from a broken wrist and surgery on his shooting hand, and senior center Dwayne Curtis' recent foot problem.
Cerasoli's injury happened in June. He's still weak from that because of his inability to lift and condition his arms and upper body since that time.
"Until he was cleared (earlier this month), Justin had not played 5 on 5 since June," Kennedy said. "Just physically he hasn't been able to do any pushups or lifting and his upper body is weak. So from a conditioning standpoint he's behind. But I've been remarkably surprised that his timing is good. It's just a physical problem for him so far."
The sophomore point guard is able to dribble, shoot, and practice now, but he's obviously not where he would have been had it not happened.
Curtis' prognosis from a stress fracture in his foot got worse and not better over the weekend. What was hoped at first to be 2-4 weeks now looks like 4-6 weeks. There will be time off from Curtis being able to do anything on his feet (he's on crutches right now), and of course it is certain they want him back on the court as soon as he is able.
Those are unfortunate things and the Rebels are dealing with them.
On the other hand, the upperclassmen have pleased Kennedy, and he feels they are doing a lot of things right as far as "taking ownership of the team" as he calls it.
"Our seniors are playing with the sense of urgency that you want to see," he said. "They are helping our younger kids see what it takes as far as leading by example."
Last Saturday, the Rebels divided into two teams and scrimmaged for 40 minutes. Senior guard Clarence Sanders led all scorers with 35 points, including 7 threes. Senior guard Todd Abernethy had 10 assists, and JUCO transfer power forward Kenny Williams had 13 points and 8 rebounds.
"Every day this team is working to get better, and that's the bottom line," Kennedy said. "They're trying to get it, working hard to get it. Creating tempo is important and pressure basketball is what we're trying to do. By pressure that doesn't mean we will try to score 100 points a game. It means we'll try to do what we need to do to win a game and play to the guys' strengths that we have.
"We do want to apply pressure constantly on offense and defense. That takes a great deal of accountability, and it's also a mindset. So that's what we've tried to develop so far, the mindset of here we come, here we come, here we come. We've got to be incredibly tenacious in order to have a chance."
*** Recruit Chris Warren of Orlando, Fla., the 19th rated point guard in the country by scout.com, will be in Oxford this weekend and attend the Rebels' open practice Friday night. Other schools recruiting him include North Carolina State, Oklahoma, and Virginia Commonwealth.
Kennedy likes the way his Rebs are practicing
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