Rebs take a look at the Big Apple

NEW YORK – Ole Miss' first day here was about taking in some of the sights and sounds of the Big Apple. And there are many of all the above.

"Too many people here for me," joked freshman Malcolm White as the bus departed the team's hotel for some points of interest.

The Rebels had arrived by charter early in the afternoon Sunday and checked into the Marriott Marquis at crowded Times Square before heading out to take a look around.

Their bus first stopped at Ground Zero where a jovial and talkative bunch of Rebels grew silent and subdued as they looked at the historic site from an observation window across the street.

Many said nothing and a few talked among themselves, while others text people back home about where they were. A group picture as well as individual snapshots also were taken.

"It makes you wonder why someone would do something like that," said a reflective senior guard Brian Smith, who was a 17-year-old high school student on Sept. 11, 2001. "It's a little emotional. I know Mike Warren, our trainer, knew somebody that died in the tragedy. That really hit us. Everyone really realized how much affect this had on people. Everyone may not have been sure what Ground Zero was or meant. Now they are. Many people died right here that day."

Smith already knew. He is older by four, five, even six years than some of his teammates.

"I remember that day. I was in history class. Everyone was in shock. A teacher cut on the TV and we were watching it in class. It was a hard day for America."

One Rebel who was not even in the states that day was David Huertas.

"I was in ninth grade," he said. "I was in math class, and the principal of the school said everybody come to the library and watch TV. We saw the airplane when it hit the second tower."

Huertas, a U.S. citizen, said those in Puerto Rico were in disbelief as well.

"Everybody was like what is going on? What happened?" he said.

"This was history here," Huertas said of Ground Zero. "I will remember this my whole life. I can tell my children about this. This was something that doesn't happen every day."

Following their visit to Ground Zero, the Rebels bussed past the former Downtown Athletic Club, which before 9-11 was the home of the Heisman Trophy. Damage that day forced the club to close, and the Heisman was moved elsewhere.

The Rebels deboarded at Battery Park and spent quite a bit of time at the tip of Manhattan. From there they could see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York Harbor and had photos made there.

They also got caught up in having some fun. Several of the players, started by a duo set of Dwayne Curtis and Zach Graham, posed for a caricature of themselves by one of the many artists in the area.

They weren't the only ones to do so. Following suit were David Huertas and Eniel Polynice individually, and Will Poole and Rodney Jones collectively.

The Rebels basically had Sunday night off to explore more of the sights and sounds of the city from their Times Square headquarters.

On Monday they are scheduled to participate in a National Invitation Tournament press conference. They'll also practice at the New York Athletic Club.

Will Poole, whose grandfather Ray Poole, played for the Ole Miss football Rebels and the New York football Giants, said his grandmother, Wanda, had given him some pointers about the city.

"It's been a long time ago," he said when his grandparents lived here. "But she had a lot of it right."

Smith said his parents, Tubby and Donna, as well as his brothers, G.G. and Saul, plan to be at the NIT games this week.

More from New York on Monday as the Rebels get serious about basketball and their first-round opponent, the Ohio State Buckeyes.

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