A summer visit with AK - part one

Andy Kennedy's second summer at Ole Miss is one of a little more comfort zone in that he knows his way around better – that includes Ole Miss, Oxford, and the needs of his program. Here's part one of a series as we check in with AK this early July.

JR: Are your players here for the second semester of summer school?

AK: They're basically all here. Since (second semester) summer school started, we've got all four freshmen here. Chris Warren, Trevor Gaskins, Zach Graham and Kevin Cantinol. They're all here in school and working out. All of our returners are here. Terrence Watson is finishing up a couple of classes (at Flint, Mich. CC). Wesley Jones is finishing up one class to complete graduation requirements at Pearl River (CC).

JR: Talk a little bit about the returning players and where you feel they are at this time.

AK: It's a complete change from what we had last year. Think about what we had last year. We had Todd, Bam and Clay, three seniors guards. This year we've got three (frontcourt) seniors in Dwayne, JP and Kenny. In some ways, the parallels are striking if you think about it. You've got Todd Abernethy who was always a solid contributor coming into last year. You have Dwayne Curtis coming into the upcoming season as a solid contributor, really the only guy who has played a role similar to what we've asked him to play. We hope DC can take that next step like Todd did, giving us some leadership and turn from a solid performer into an all-league type guy. Hopefully he can take that next step. He's been working at it. When we got here (in the spring of 2006), he was 305 to 310. Right now he's under 270 consistently. I'm hoping between August and October we can get him closer to that 260 number. I think that will help him tremendously in a lot of areas. Jermey Parnell is very similar to Bam Doyne in that he's had his moments and helped us in a variety of ways. But he's never been consistently depended upon like we're going to have to next year. So I'm hoping he can do what Bam did, and that senior sense of urgency will take over and he'll go from being a role player to a guy that we can depend on game in and game out. He's also physically better than he's ever been. He was around 260 last year, and now he's 240 and dropping as we speak. So he's made a complete change in his mentality. Kenny had a solid first year out of junior college, and I'd like to see him have the same transformation that Clay had, seeing that the greatest amount of improvement is usually between year one and year two. Hopefully we'll see that out of him as well and he can take that next step. These guys realize the game is not going to slow down for them, so they have to pick up the pace. So we have experience in our frontcourt.

JR: Other aspects of the team that you see heading into the fall?

AK: We've added size to our wings. Last year with Clay and Bam we were 6-1 and 6-3 respectively. Now we have David Huertas at 6-5 and 200 pounds, Zach Graham at 6-5, 215, Wesley Jones at 6-7 and about 210, and Eneil Polynice, the one returner with any experience there, who is about 6-5, 215. He's really kind of transformed his body (this offseason). So we've really helped ourselves with size and athleticism on the wing. The one area of concern is the fact that we lost a senior point guard who played the majority of the time, an all-league guy in Todd. We've got some inexperienced but talented guys there in Chris Warren and Trevor Gaskins, talented guys but guys who've obviously never played at this level. We do have Brian Smith, and Brian's the only senior on our perimeter. We hope his role continues to expand as well.

JR: How do you get those younger guys to grow up to be able to help right away, which obviously you need for them to do?

AK: Experience is the greatest teacher. I would be really concerned if I had any doubts about their ability to play at this level physically. But I don't have any of those doubts. I think they're going to be very good complements to one another. Chris is 5-10, 170, tremendously athletic. Very, very fast. Has a great tempo to his game. Trevor is 6-2, 205, and a really powerful lead guard. So it's almost like a fastball pitcher and a pitcher who will come at you from a different angle. One's right-handed; one's left-handed and they have different styles. I don't think there's any question they'll complement one another. And it's not out of the question that they could be on the floor at the same together a lot of the time.

JR: What about some of the other newcomers?

AK: Zach really leads his life with a maturity that's very unusual for an 18-year-old incoming freshman. He has a different focus you see out of a typical freshman. Physically he's mature beyond his years. He's like every kid in that his minutes will be determined by how quickly he responds to the speed of the game. Kevin Cantinol will be a pleasant surprise for most. Here's a guy who was under the radar in a lot of national publications. But he's 6-9, 240, with a 7'3" wing span and an unbelievable kid whose body has matured since we signed him. Once he gets fully indoctrinated into the way we do things from a strength and conditioning standpoint, his game is going to grow by leaps and bounds. Wesley Jones is extremely athletic and has the ability to score. He rebounds well. He has a chance to help us in a variety of ways and can play either forward position. There's a transition he will have to make, just like all these new guys in adjusting to the demands of consistently performing at a higher level. There's a little bit of a learning curve.

JR: When you look at the team as a whole, do you already see any redshirt possibilities?

AK: Nah, we don't even think about that now. That will work its way out.

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