Before the regular season began, media and fans alike were contemplating what Chris Warren and company might bring in 2009.
As well they should, as Warren was entering his sophomore season at Ole Miss having garnered All-SEC honors as a freshman, and a bulk of last season's 24-11 squad were returning.
But this season wasn't to be about Warren or even fellow veterans Eniel Polynice and Trevor Gaskins. Attrition took its toll, as each fell to season-ending ACL injuries well before SEC play began.
Instead, the impetus was placed on youth, with Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy facing the league's uncertainties with a talented, but mostly inexperienced roster.
The journey appeared daunting, with little hope to what was sure to be a long season. Which newcomer would make up for the production lost?
Enter freshman Terrico White.
"When Chris went down, the question was ‘Can we win another game?‘ I didn't know, because we didn't have anybody that was in position to take over as the leader of our team," said Kennedy. "Terrico has evolved into that guy."
It's hard to discredit what White has meant to the Rebels' successes, especially when you look at the numbers.
Since taking over as Ole Miss' starting point guard after Warren went down against Louisville, the Memphis, Tenn. native has lit up the scoreboard for 18.3 points per game in SEC play – sixth-most among all players in the conference and tops among freshmen.
He has eight games of 20-plus points in league play (including five of the last six) at a position he hadn't played at any other point in his career.
"For him to go into a new position, as a true freshman, and lead us the way he has – I'd be hard pressed to find anybody that's been more valuable to his team," Kennedy said. "He steps up and makes hard shots. He has that ability. He's a big-time player."
As the team's leading scorer in 10 of the last 11 games, White has certainly done his part in helping a young Rebel squad try and realize their goal of postseason play.
But after finishing the regular season with a 16-14 overall record and 7-9 mark in SEC contests, there is still work to be done to achieve that feat.
So instead of focusing on what individual accomplishments might lay ahead, the talented guard is only looking toward getting his team more wins.
"We're trying to get to the NIT really, even though the whole team is really battered and tired," he said. "I thought we gave a good effort (against MSU). It just didn't work out for us. I'm just trying to help get this team to the postseason. That's all I'm worried about."
Still, the electrifying frosh has seemed to increase his production with nearly every game.
As the team's primary ball-handler, White has had 39 assists to just 26 turnovers in 13 games. A career-high 29 points at Arkansas were the most by a Rebel freshman since Keith Carter had 29 in the 1995-96 season.
According to Kennedy, those statistics are what distance White from other talented freshmen in the conference.
"Our league is full of talented freshmen," said Kennedy. "You can't vote for your own players, but I don't think anybody has been more valuable to a team than he has been for us. He's tremendously talented."
And hopefully the next SEC Freshman of the Year.
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