Kennedy pleased after MTSU scrimmage

Andy Kennedy's Ole Miss basketball squad took advantage of an NCAA rule that allows teams to scrimmage other D-I basketball teams. The Rebels went to Middle Tennessee and spent some time facing the Blue Raiders Sunday.

Kennedy liked the format and was pleased with his team in many aspects.

"I got a chance to play a lot of different guys in a lot of different situations," he said. "We did it in a different gym against a quality opponent. We felt like it was very helpful."

There was a morning and an afternoon session.

"In the morning we did a lot of controlled stuff. In the afternoon we did two 20-minute segments and a 10-minute segment. So we played 50 minutes of basketball in the afternoon. There were officials there. So it worked out great. We got a lot of guys a lot of different minutes at different positions. We got to experiment with different combinations. So I thought it was very helpful to us."

The morning workout consisted of a variety of drills.

"We did some control things. We did some make it, take it, meaning MTSU starts with the ball. We're on defense. If they score we stay at this basket. If they miss we transition, and we play until somebody scores. Just different things. We're going to start with the ball on out of bounds plays. We're going to trap during this next 10 minutes. We're going to zone during this next 10 minutes. It was really, really helpful."

It wasn't a win-lose contest situation, and the stats were somewhat difficult to piece together. But here is some of what happened during the several hours at MTSU, according to Kennedy.

"We had some really positive things to happen," Kennedy said. "I was most pleased with four or five guys. Dwayne Curtis is playing as well as he ever has since I've been here. His effort defensively is much better, and I think a lot of it is due to his conditioning. He's 270 pounds hopefully down to the mid 260s. He's much more agile, and he can go for longer periods of time. He's rebounding better. He's always been able to rebound in his area. Now he's able to rebound better outside of his area. He was very efficient scoring yesterday.

"He was 13-of-17 from the field but was only 6-of-12 from the free throw line, which is something we have to correct. He played very well in a controlled environment. In 33 minutes he had 32 points and 14 rebounds. That's a pretty good days work."

More from Kennedy.

"David Huertas I thought was very good for us. He's not played against anybody but the Ole Miss Rebels now for almost two years. So it was helpful for him to go against somebody else. He was effective in a number of areas. He scored 37 points in 34 minutes.

"Eniel Polynice had a good day for us with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 11 assists. But he had six turnovers because he was really loose with the ball. He played over 40 minutes. When he's really into it, meaning mentally into it and doesn't take plays off, he's our best perimeter defender. He really did a great job for us yesterday. He's the kind of guy that at the end of the day you want him to be a guy who makes an impact in a number of different areas. He did that for us yesterday, with rebounding, with assists. Unfortunately he had some turnovers. He scored it pretty efficiently, made some threes, did some pretty good things. It was all very, very helpful to him. Last year he showed some moments and the ability to be a good SEC player. He's taken that next step now, and we hope that will continue throughout the course of the year. We have to remember he's only a sophomore, and he's really versatile and can help us in a variety of ways.

"Kenny Williams was very effective. He had 14 points and 10 rebounds. He was our best post defender. Jermey Parnell had his moments as well. He had 10 points and 8 rebounds and was active on both ends of the glass."

Another positive performance came in the form of true freshman point guard Chris Warren. Kennedy was pleased to see him step up.

"He had five 3s and scored 31 points but that's not the most impressive thing. He had 11 assists and two turnovers. Pretty impressive. And this is a guy who hasn't played against college competition before.

"Trevor Gaskins got an opportunity to play over 20 minutes. Terrence Watson got an opportunity to play over 20 minutes. Zach Graham got an opportunity to play over 20 minutes. So all of those guys getting a chance to play other Division I players was very, very helpful.

"For us it gives us a tape of about three hours that we can break down and show guys good, bad, and indifferent. When you go against another team, and neither team did any scouting obviously, it's more helpful to give you a gauge on how you're developing on both ends."

Kennedy said he is encouraged by the point guard play.

"Brian Smith has been good for us on and off the floor, nurturing these kids on and off the floor. Trevor Gaskins didn't have his best day Sunday. He had some turnovers and got caught up in the speed of the game. But that's the reason you play these games. Chris Warren was outstanding. For him to be in his first game against college competition and for him to respond the way he did was really good. His decision-making was really good.

"Terrence Watson is going to be a kid that's going to play a valuable role for us this year because of his versatility and the type of post presence he has and his ability to face the basket and his ball skills. He's a tenacious defender who can guard four positions.

"Malcolm White I love. I love his energy. He's got a lot of learning to do, as do all freshmen."

"Kevin Cantinol has been probably the most pleasant surprise of all the freshmen because of his ability to adapt more quickly to learning at the college level.

"Wesley Jones and Rodney Jones are a little older than these freshmen. Wesley is new to this level, and Rodney has seen the day in and day out demands of this level.

"Zach Graham has a world of potential, and he's fighting with the speed of the game and with making decisions under duress. I've been pleased with all our young guys and how we've come together as a team."

Kennedy says he will do another of these type scrimmages prior to next season.

"The scrimmage was excellent. You get to see your kids in so many different situations. It also enabled us to play a lot of players in a lot of minutes. We took stats for 300 man minutes. A regular game is 200. So we played like a game and a half we were able to stat off of. That's not counting all the other things we did based on different scenarios like two minutes left in the game and three minutes left in the game. So when our kids are faced with that during the season, they will better know how to respond."

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