Kennedy continues to see progress from Rebs

Andy Kennedy said he saw a lot of good things in reviewing the Ole Miss Rebels' exhibition win over Delta State. He believes his team can build on that.

"We got a chance to play a lot of guys, which was good," he said of the 110-65 win over the Division II Statesmen. "We had 12 guys play double digit minutes, which I think was important early. We came away unscathed physically. I said going into the game that the Middle Tennessee State experience was good for us. The Delta State experience was good because it gave us a chance to play in front of a few people. Hopefully Saturday won't be as big a shock, especially to the new guys."

Ole Miss opens the season Saturday at 2 p.m. hosting Mississippi Valley State in Oxford. Kennedy said his staff treated the exhibition games as real games. After all, it was about preparing everybody for the season.

"Honestly, other than the fact that I told them Christmas is now over and that you're going to earn your minutes - we're not giving them away anymore - we treat everything the same. We'll do some scouting for this one. We didn't do any scouting on either of the exhibition situations. But being the first game of the year, you don't have a lot of tape. You're going off last year. Other than that we try to approach every game in a very business-like fashion. We're trying to prepare them for this, and we'll do the same things we did going into the exhibitions."

Last year in the season opener, Ole Miss defeated the Delta Devils 72-49. MVSU is coached by former Rebel player James Green, in his third year at Valley.

Kennedy said he's hopeful Kenny Williams will be ready to play this weekend but that a decision won't be made until late this week. The senior forward/center hasn't missed any practice time.

Kennedy said who will start and get the most minutes will be determined by the players themselves.

"Those will be earned by the guys on the floor," he said. "The upper classmen are a little ahead of the curve, which you would expect. I think all our newcomers have performed well and are going to get opportunities."

Obviously one of the most talked about performances of the DSU contest was the play of freshman point guard Chris Warren. Kennedy liked what he saw from the newcomer.

"He's got an opportunity to be a special player," Kennedy said of the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder. "He's got all the physical attributes, even though he's tiny. He's a very fast guy, a tough kid. He's a good perimeter shooter. He has a good understanding of how to play. He's very coachable. He plays extremely hard. I think his confidence has really risen over the last seven to 10 days. I think he's comfortable with the ball. The more game experience he gets, the better he's going to be. He just has to adjust to the speed of the game. It will take some time. But he has all the tools to be a very, very good player."

Kennedy says the players around him have started having more and more confidence in Warren.

"Last year we put a lot of emphasis on point guard play and gave Todd (Abernethy) a lot of responsibility, because we were inexperienced in a number of areas and we knew we could depend on Todd. This year it's totally different. We're putting that load on our front court. We're putting it on Eniel (Polynice) and David (Huertas). They are older. They have more things to draw from. I'm just trying to put Chris in an opportunity where he has a chance to be successful. The more chances he gets to grow in that role, the more responsibilities we can place on him."

Kennedy said many challenges continue, especially from the aspect of finding the right combinations and also just getting them more playing time to help with the experience factor.

"From the perimeter I think all our guys have the ability to make something happen. Scoring is about creating space and creating angles, and we're trying to do that, whether it be inside or outside. So we're trying to put them in a position to utilize their speed. We've got more size on our wing than last year, and I think we've got more speed with the ball. We also understand the strength of our team is the three seniors along our frontline. So we're dealing with a balancing act."

Act I for the 2007-08 season begins for real Saturday afternoon.


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