A little bit of a waiting game

There's still some waiting going on at men's basketball. The coaches are waiting on the players to get back for the fall semester. And they're waiting on Murphy Holloway to arrive for his first workouts.

Holloway, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward, is all cleared to enroll at Ole Miss and will be here to start the semester as well. But the NCAA Clearinghouse has yet to give its "thumbs up" on his playing status. As usual with the Clearinghouse, any timetable on that is just a guess.

Coach Andy Kennedy is looking forward to the arrival of the team soon.

"I really like our team," said Kennedy, coming off back-to-back NIT seasons with 45 total wins in two years. "Our kids had a really productive summer in the classroom and in their strength training. I believe we got better."

Eniel Polynice, with a scope surgery of his knee in the spring, continues to progress from that.

"He had a couple of setbacks with some swelling issues," Kennedy said. "Since it was the summer, we wanted to make sure we gave him the necessary time to recover. He's back in Florida (his homestate) right now playing and seems to be doing fine."

Polynice hurt it with some four games to go in the regular season. He missed the Rebels' first NIT game in Oxford against UC-Santa Barbara.

The coaches are not allowed to be on the playing court with the players in the summer, except in camp settings. But Kennedy is pleased with what he's seen of them just in the day to day sense of going to class, coming by the office, and what they've done on their own.

"We've got a new strength coach working under Coach (Don) Decker, and that's Matt Turner," Kennedy said. "He's come in and done a good job with our guys. Physically they look good. That's important progress to make in the summertime."

Without getting into too much detail in August, since he has yet to see his team together on the court, Kennedy has some initial thoughts on the Rebels of 2008-09.

"Where we are as to where we've been, I think we'll be markedly better in a number of areas," he said. "I think in our backcourt we have seven SEC quality players who, although young in age, do have some experience with what they went through last year. Chris (Warren) averaged 30 minutes a game, EP (Polynice) close to 30 minutes, David (Huertas) played over 25 minutes a game and really found himself the last third of the season. Trevor (Gaskins) and Zach (Graham) played quality minutes against high-level competition and had the opportunity to grow through that experience."

Newcomers Will Boggan (6-1, 165) and Terrico White (6-5, 195) are added to that backcourt mix.

"Our front line is obviously a question mark," Kennedy continued. "My biggest concern is our ability to rebound the basketball, which is a huge key. We've done that pretty well the past two years. The guys that did that most consistently are now gone. Malcolm White (6-9, 220) is going to have to step up and take a real leadership role along our front line. He's the only guy on our front line that has ever been in an SEC game. I think we have enough pieces to collectively get the job done. I believe people are going to be pleasantly surprised when they see (redshirt freshman) Kevin Cantinol. He's a legitimate 6-foot-10 and over 250 pounds. And we've brought in some really good players."

New players at the four and five spots are 6-9, 200, Terrance Henry; 6-9, 250, DeAundre Cranston; and 6-8, 225, Holloway.

The Rebels have no seniors who are starters or even key subs this season. The last time Ole Miss had no men's basketball seniors it won back-to-back solo SEC Western Division titles and advanced to the NCAA Tournament each season. That was in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

BPF construction has begun. Kennedy is pleased. The new home of UM hoops should open in the fall of 2009.

"I view progress by the number of machines that are on the ground," Kennedy smiled and said. "Every time I go by there, if I see another machine, I take it they are making progress. We're obviously excited about that facility and how it will help us."

More men's hoops in the weeks ahead.


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