Capital Clash

Kenny Williams, he of Fear the Beard fame, says he's glad to be playing in Mississippi's capital city tonight as the Rebels take on Winthrop.

"I've never been to Jackson, so I don't know what to expect," said the 6-foot-8, 240-pound senior forward. "But I do expect fans from all over the state to attend, some that might not have the chance to make it to Oxford but can make it to this game. So I'm excited about that."

The Rebels will face a battle-tested 5-3 Winthrop team from Rock Hill, South Carolina, in the Mississippi Coliseum. A win and the Rebels would be 8-0 heading to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for three games next week against DePaul, LaSalle, and 15th-ranked Clemson.

Ole Miss got votes in both the media and coaches polls this week. Williams says the Rebels will eventually get in, but only if they continue to win.

"To be honest with you, I don't really think we should be in the Top 25," said Williams, averaging 10.4 points and 8.9 rebounds in 24.7 minutes of action a game. "I think we should earn it. Winthrop is a team that's been to the NCAA Tournament. We need to knock them off. When we got to Puerto Rico, we need to win all our games there. If we do all that, we should be in the Top 25, and then I feel like we will have earned it."

Williams and his fellow frontline veterans are leading the way. But it's been the play of some new backcourt freshmen that have helped the Rebels get to 7-0.

"The freshmen have really showed out," Williams said. "They really showed at Central Florida that they are doing well. Trevor (Gaskins) made some critical free throws at the end. And the way Chris (Warren) played, to be down there at home with his family, that was good. They've all really showed me a lot, and they have a lot of confidence."

Williams, the team's leader in blocks with 12 on the season, says it all comes back to the head man, Andy Kennedy.

"It's about AK giving them the freedom," he said. "AK is not your usual coach that says don't do too much, don't let freshmen play. He gives you the freedom to go out there and make plays. He's going to get on you when you make a mistake. But as long as you play hard, he's going to let you play."

Williams says the Rebels need to stop having lulls or scoring lapses in games and play together for 40 minutes.

"Our biggest obstacle right now is staying focused," he said. "We've got all the tools to keep winning, do well in the SEC, and get to the NCAA Tournament and do well there. If we do that, we have a chance to be the best team that's ever been at Ole Miss. But we have to stay focused every day and every game."

Williams says the future of Ole Miss basketball has no limits, and the way things are shaping up has even changed his mind about something.

"With the recruiting class coming in and the ones over the next few years, I'm excited about this program," he said. "I always said once I left, I wouldn't come back to Oxford, Mississippi. It's so far from home (Miami, Fla.), and I've been away from home for so long. But they (future Rebel teams) will make me come back."

But for now, it's a game in Jackson that's his only concern. Winthrop is coming back to Mississippi. Last season the Eagles beat Mississippi State 74-63 in Starkville.

"We know they are a good team," he said. "They have a high RPI, and we're trying to build up our resume'. We know that trying to beat them is the task at hand, and we're looking forward to this game."

OM Spirit Top Stories