New role for Will

Freshman Will Bogan came to Ole Miss because of basketball. Monday night against Florida A&M in Oxford, he will be front and center for the Rebels as the starting point guard.

It's earlier in his career than he might have guessed he'd be starting as a Southeastern Conference point. Nobody else would have guessed that either, unless there was an injury or two.

How about three?

Certainly the earlier season-ending knee situations for Trevor Gaskins and Eniel Polynice shook things up for the Rebels. When Chris Warren went down in the last half a minute of a loss to Louisville in Cincinnati last Thursday night, Bogan headed to the top of the class – in this case to direct the offense.

It's a role he eagerly accepts but not the way he would have wanted to earn it.

"It's definitely a big opportunity for me," said the Caldwell, Idaho, native who has played in all 11 games for the Rebels this season, averaging seven and a half minutes per contest. "Obviously my role has dramatically increased now. I'm excited about it, but obviously not excited about the injury (to Warren). But I'll come into the role confidently and do what is needed for the team."

Bogan has averaged 1.7 points per contest so far and is 4-of-8 from 3-point range in those 11 games. He's had six assists, three turnovers, and three steals.

He said his mindset up until last Thursday was being ready when called upon and thinking more like a backup. He admits that's all changed as well.

"It's a bit of a refocus for me," said the 19-year-old business major. "Because I'm stepping into such a different role now, I'm going to be getting a lot more minutes. So I'm expected to do a lot more things, which comes with having that much more responsibility."

Bogan has said all season that, after starting in high school and playing lots of minutes there, coming off the bench and playing short spans of time have been challenging. Perhaps his past experiences as a floor general and playing a major role for his team will come back to help him quickly.

"It's hard to come off the bench just for a couple of minutes at a time," he said. "It's tough to come in cold and really get into a rhythm and flow of the game. So I definitely believe it will help a lot to get out there and get comfortable."

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said he hopes to put Bogan in situations where he can be successful.

"He's like most every freshman. Every day is a new day," said Kennedy, his team now 7-4 heading into the 7 o'clock game tonight with 2-8 Florida A&M. "One advantage he's had is he's gone against as good a point guard as he'll play all year every day in practice. Going against Chris on both sides of the ball is obviously a challenge. He's been doing that ever since this thing (practice) started a couple of months ago. Now I have to put him into a position that he's comfortable and that he has a chance to be successful. And then he has to garner some experience."

Kennedy doesn't want to put all the load of the point guard position on Bogan's young shoulders.

"We're going to try to do some things by committee," he said. "We had been changing some things offensively in our approach toward a two point-guard system. Obviously Chris dominates the ball as it relates to creating offense in the open floor. We will adjust some things we do so there isn't as much responsibility on Will until he's ready for such."

Kennedy admitted with the loss of the three players, the latest one being the floor leader, that he's challenged to find the right combinations and scenarios for his team.

"We're making some adjustments to make sure we don't try to put in a whole new package," he said, mentioning that senior guard Patrick Spach would likely see some minutes now as well. "We're into this. We have to simplify it, and again my job is to put those kids into a position that they're comfortable and that they have a chance to be successful. That's what we're going to attempt to do."

Rebel assistant coach Michael White said Bogan just needs experience, both from his own play on the court and from what the coaching staff can relay to him.

"Just continue to teach him about little nuances in terms of leading and taking care of the ball," the Rebels' starting point guard from 1996-99 said. "And continue to give him confidence. He's had some good practices. He just hasn't had a lot of opportunity to show what he can do in game situations."

Certainly he will beginning tonight.

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