Huertas 'can't wait' for Friday

David Huertas has waited a long time. It's a safe assumption that nobody associated with Ole Miss basketball is more excited about Friday night's exhibition game than he is.

Huertas transferred from Florida after his freshman year. He sat out all last season. He said even the closed scrimmages against MTSU last weekend were something he looked forward to and thoroughly enjoyed. His numbers proved that. The sophomore guard scored 37 points in 34 total minutes.

"This is what I've been waiting for," said the 6-foot-5, 195-pounder from Humacao, Puerto Rico. "My freshman year (at Florida) I played eight or nine minutes a game. Then I sat out last year. So I can't wait until Friday."

Huertas says he's been given the green light to shoot. He says more importantly than that, he must score when he shoots.

"First of all, when I shoot it I have to make it," he said. "It feels great when your coach says David, I'm gonna let you shoot. It really feels great."

His coach, Andy Kennedy, says while Huertas could be considered a newcomer, he doesn't view him that way.

"He's been in our program for over a year," said Kennedy, 21-13 in his first season at UM. "He's further along because he's been in this system a while now. He understands things and he understands us, and we have a pretty good feel for his skills and the way he can help our team. We obviously have a glaring hole with the loss (to graduation) of Clarence Sanders and Bam Doyne on our wings. That happens to be his position. He's been by far the most consistent performer as it relates to our new guys."

Huertas, who ironically made his only start for the Gators on their trip to Ole Miss, played in 35 games that year and all 16 SEC contests, averaging 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds. He brought with him to Oxford a ring from that national championship campaign. But he says his game has come quite a ways since leaving Gainesville.

"I feel older and more mature. My one year here with Bam Doyne and Todd Abernethy, watching them and learning from them, I feel my game is better. I'm stronger. I've gained 15 pounds since I got here. I've worked hard in a lot of areas. I worked on my shooting. Overall I feel I'm a much better player."

Expectations for the defending Southeastern Conference Western Division champions aren't that high externally. But internally on this squad they are.

"That's preseason. We don't care if they pick us last," Huertas said. "Last year we were picked at the bottom, too. We ended up at the top. We feel we have a much better team this year. We feel we'll make it to the (NCAA) Tournament. That's one of our goals. That and winning the SEC this year."

One of Huertas' individual goals was to get back onto the court and play in a real game again. Don't tell him it's just an exhibition game against the Delta State Statesmen. As far as he's concerned, it's the real thing.

"Right now I'm just so anxious. I have to slow down," the personable Huertas said, grimacing a bit and gritting his teeth as if to say how hard that is for him to do this week. "That's what Coach has told me, too, to slow down and relax a bit. When we played Middle Tennessee I was just so anxious. I knew I had to slow everything down. I just want to play well on Friday."

Most likely he will. But for David Huertas, it's all about ending a long wait from collegiate competition, which has been a year and a half in the making.

"I just can't wait until Friday gets here," he said, smiling. "I just can't wait to play."


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