Huertas, Rebs eager for game vs. Gators

Chris Warren walked into Tad Smith Coliseum Monday afternoon wrapped up in a jacket and with the attached hood pulled over his head. He was asked if he was cold. He responded in the affirmative.

It's cold in Oxford these January days, especially if you are from the warmer climes of Florida. Warren isn't the only Floridian on the squad. He joins Kenny Williams, Eniel Polynice, and David Huertas as Sunshine Staters who play hoops for the Ole Miss Rebels.

That means this week isn't just any other week for this group. The two-time defending national champion Florida Gators are coming to town for a Wednesday night contest.

Probably the most eager and anxious of them all will be Huertas, the sophomore guard who spent his first season playing for Florida before sitting out last season after transferring to Ole Miss.

"Playing my old team, I know I will be excited," said Huertas, who still has some ties to his former team. "(Guard) Walter Hodge who starts for them used to be my roommate. He's from Puerto Rico, too. I know (guard) Nick Calathes, too. I played against him in high school."

All five starters from last year's national title team are gone. Still the Gators have a 15-2 overall mark and are 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play with wins at Alabama (90-83) and at home over Auburn (72-56).

Florida's high-powered offensive attack (80.9 points per game) is led by current SEC Freshman of the Week, the 6-foot-6 Calathes' 15.2 points per game and also by 6-10 sophomore center Marresse Speights' 14.0 ppg. Calathes also leads the SEC with 5.88 assists per game and Speights pulls down a team-high 7.6 boards per game.

The Gator defense has been solid all season, limiting opponents to 61.5 points per contest, the second-best mark in the SEC. Florida leads the league with a +19.4 scoring margin and a .512 field-goal percentage. They've won four straight since losing 62-49 at Ohio State. Their other loss this season was to instate rival Florida State 65-51 in Gainesville.

Huertas said transferring to Ole Miss, which is 14-1 this season, was something he spent much time evaluating before making his decision.

"The main point was playing time," said Huertas, who has played in all 15 games this season, starting 11, and is averaging 24.3 minutes per game. "I knew players were coming back (at Florida after his freshman season). I talked about it with family and my AAU coach and my high school coach. I felt I was going to waste another year there. So for my future I decided to move on."

Huertas said his time at Ole Miss, which is in its fourth semester now dating back to the fall of 2006, has been a positive one for him.

"It's been great. I like it here. I like my teammates and my coach and playing. This is what I wanted to do."

Huertas, who has experienced only one loss at Tad Smith Coliseum in his two seasons here, loves the home crowd and the energy the fans bring to the games. He's looking forward to much more of that throughout this season, especially so this Wednesday night when the Gators roll in.

"Lately the fans have been great," he said. "The last game they really helped us. It gets so loud when we score. It also makes it hard for the other team to call plays. We feel really comfortable playing here."

Huertas admits he's still trying to completely find his comfort zone, and that he hopes to play within himself in this one – although it will be difficult.

"I just get so excited to play," he said. "It's that way every game. Hopefully Wednesday I can just calm down and play relaxed."

His current head coach, Andy Kennedy, hopes that's the case as well.

"Certainly he'll be really excited, but hopefully not too excited," said Kennedy, 35-14 in two seasons at Ole Miss. "Since we've gotten into league play, he seems to have gotten a little anxious again. I'm sure Wednesday he'll be off the charts. I don't know if that's good or bad. He hasn't shot it well the last two games, so maybe that will help him."

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