Polynice a key to Rebels' season

Eniel Polynice has been around a while. He's one of the old guys of Ole Miss basketball now.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound junior from Sarasota, Fla., has logged more minutes than anybody else currently in the Rebel program. He's been a part of two of the winningest seasons in Ole Miss men's hoops history with 21 and 24 wins the past two years.

But, like everybody involved in the program, he wants more – like an NCAA Tournament appearance this season.

Polynice thinks the Rebels, who start official practice Friday, can get there this time around. But he knows they will have to step up more than they have in the past.

"We really just have to show that we want it more," said Polynice, who averaged 10.7 points per game last season while playing an average of 29.6 minutes per contest. "But we don't just want to make it to the NCAA Tournament. We want to win games once we get there. We want to beat some teams. We've beaten a lot of teams the past two years that made it. We want to show people that we can really play."

Polynice played 16 minutes a game as a freshman and averaged 3.9 points. But it was last season that he came into his own as a big contributor to the Rebels' success.

"EP's the most experienced guy on our team," third-year UM head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We saw tremendous improvement in year two out of him. His versatility is his calling card. That's going to have to continue to be the way in which he impacts the game. Our challenge to EP is that of trying to become more of a leader to try to understand how his role has changed over the years he has been here."

Polynice said he strives to improve every day to help his team.

"I work hard and push myself to be the best I can be," he said. "That helps my team by helping myself. If I help out the team and make sacrifices, then that is good for both. It helps us get where we want to go."

Polynice said he has learned a lot in two years about how to prepare for each day and each game.

"This year I want to approach every game like it's my last," he said. "I'm a junior but I'm going to play every game like I'm a senior, like it's my last time around. I've got to be better this year than last year if we want to get where we want to go."

Polynice likes this year's team, which has several significant newcomers on board. He also says he feels even more bonding among this group than before.

"We've been around each other for a while now. The chemistry is good and everybody is working well and playing well together. I think we'll be allright this season."

Polynice, second on the team last year with 139 assists behind point guard Chris Warren's 156, said he's worked hard to improve in several areas.

"I'm bigger, stronger, faster, and my jump shot's a lot better. I've gotten stronger in the weight room. I'm stronger attacking the basket. I'm smarter and hungrier. I just want to win."

Kennedy said a lot is expected of Polynice, and this could indeed be his time.

"For us I see him as a huge key. If he can take that next step and start garnering all-league consideration, then I think our team can take that next step. He's going to be a focal point for us in so many areas."

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