Little by little

Good road test against Central Florida proved Coach Andy Kennedy's Rebel basketball team is making strides with its young backcourt, led by freshman Point Guard Chris Warren. Read one opinion inside.

Part of the fun of college athletics is watching a eam develop, especially the chemistry of a team and the youth of that team growing some fangs.

The Ole Miss men's basketball team is a case in point, uh, point guard.

Led by freshman Point Guard Chris Warren, the Rebels road tripped to Orlando, FL - coincientally Warren's home town - and remained unbeaten (7-0) by staving off a determined Knights team 76-67.

There were many to "thank" for the tough road victory, which saw Central Florida come back from double-digit deficits in the second half and cut the score to Rebel lead to one with 4:39 remaining, but the starting backcourt duo of Warren and fellow true freshman Guard Trevor Gaskins were two of the more significant.

And it wasn't just about their one-game effort and ability to hold off a charging home team, it was about another step in the maturation process of a team with a brand new backcourt rotation, with the exception of backup senior PG Brian Smith.

Warren tallied a smooth 18 points in an up-and-down offensive showing while Gaskins added 13 and sophomore David Huertas, who has been coming off the bench after earning a starting role earlier in the year, produced 6 points and seems to be relaxing a little after some "nervous and tight" moments in his first few games after sitting out last year after transferring to Ole Miss from Florida.

Basically, what it comes down to, in the long run, is poise when the athletic ability is there, which all three possess in abundance.

So far, neither Warren nor Gaskins have blinked, and that bodes well for a team with a veteran frontcourt led by seniors Kenny Williams, Jermey Parnell and Dwayne Curtis, who also played significant roles in the victory.

The difference is the big guys - with all their experience - were expected to carry the load.

Warren and Gaskins were not.

With Huertas, Smith and Eniel Polynice returning, it was figured in the preseason Kennedy could break Chris and Trevor in slowly, give them time to adjust and grow into the college game with limited minutes at first and increasing through the year.

But AK and his staff saw enough of what they were looking for in both to throw them in the fray early and give them a trial-by-fire beginning.

Again, neither have flinched. Gaskins began his college career by canning seven threes, which tied a team record.

Warren has been running the offense with enough precision to keep the Rebel unbeaten.

Warren's physical prowess - which relies on outstanding speed and quickness - would suggest he'd be a risk taker with the ball in his hands. Instead, he has proven to be very careful with distributing the ball and somewhat conservative in Kennedy's shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later offense. Chris does not take many ill-advised shots and does not make a lot of foolish passes, which shows unusual maturity for a frosh.

It would be silly to declare either Warren or Gaskins "finish products" - they have miles to go before they sleep, but with the kind of start they have had to their now 7-0 career, you have to be excited about them and their progress.

We'll see a lot of fun hoops with that backcourt in the next 3 3/4 years.

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