Hoop Time? Believe it or not, almost

So is it basketball season? Signs surely point that it isn't far away. Official practice begins in just a couple of weeks.

Season tickets for Ole Miss basketball have been on sale this month. There's been a lot of activity as far as that's concerned, although there have been no numbers announced yet as far as how sales are going.

They should be going well considering the fact that the Rebels are picked by many as a legitimate contender in the Southeastern Conference Western Division race. Of course a lot of that depends on just how "well" the Rebels are, especially in the backcourt.

Are Chris Warren, Trevor Gaskins, Eniel Polynice, and Zach Graham 100 percent or near there? All reports have been good on their progress for months now.

What about the Rebels' inside game? Will DeAundre Cranston have a big senior season? Has Terrance Henry gotten stronger? Will freshman Reginald Buckner be able to step in and help out as planned? Is big-bodied JUCO transfer DeAngelo Riley ready for D-I hoops? Will 6-foot-10 Kevin Cantinol be a bigger force inside in his third season?

What about Terrico White? If year one to year two is often the biggest improvement, how much will he have improved after an SEC Freshman of the Year campaign and a summer playing a significant role as a part of the gold-medal winning Team USA U-19 squad?

Will Murphy Holloway also continue that second-year surge and be one of the team's leaders and significant players as he became last year as a freshman? How much will sophomore Will Bogan contribute after a first year of steady improvement?

There are a lot of questions, as there always are. But this team appears to have a shot to do some special things. Early prognostications in some publications have the Rebels as one of the top two teams in the West, along with Mississippi State. It won't take long once SEC play starts for those two to sort things out a bit.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State open SEC play in Oxford on Saturday, Jan. 9, a 12:30 p.m. tipoff at C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum.

Before that, however, the Rebels take on Indiana in the Puerto Rico Tipoff, as well as two other significant teams, depending on the outcomes of the games on day one.

The Hoosier-Rebel matchup is noteworthy. Indiana is one of the top 10 all-time winningest programs in Division I men's basketball. But last season, first-year head coach Tom Crean tried to pick up the pieces of the storied program and resurrect it after the downfall under Kelvin Sampson. The going was rough in a 6-24 very un-Indiana-like campaign.

Transfer 6-foot-4 guard Nick Williams, who played in 31 games at Indiana last season, starting 29, will sit out this season at Ole Miss; thus not participating in the Ole Miss-Indiana contest.

Other teams in the Puerto Rico field are Boston University, Dayton, George Mason, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, and 2009 Final Four participant Villanova.

A game at West Virginia is on the slate, along with a matchup against UTEP in Southaven. The official season opener is Friday, Nov. 13 against Arkansas-Little Rock in Oxford, the night before Ole Miss and Tennessee play football at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

An exhibition contest is a week prior on Friday, Nov. 6, when Auburn-Montgomery comes to Tad Smith, the night before Ole Miss and Northern Arizona play football.

At least 19 of the Rebels' regular season games will be televised live by some network. The headliners on the tube would be the Indiana game Nov. 19 on ESPN2, at West Virginia on ESPN2 on Dec. 23, and a Super Tuesday showdown at Kentucky on ESPN on Feb. 2.

Three more games are set for ESPN2 – at Mississippi State (Feb. 11), at Alabama (Feb. 27), and at home with LSU (March 4).

CBS will beam the Ole Miss-Florida game to the nation in an 11 a.m. CT tip in Oxford on Sat., Feb. 20.

Before you flip your calendar to 2010, the Rebels should be in their new daily home. The impressive basketball practice facility, with team lounge, locker room, and offices, as well as practice courts, will be an important piece of the basketball puzzle as Coach Andy Kennedy continues to build a consistent winner into year four of his regime.

Also, the UMAA Foundation is taking on a bit of basketball flair. Former college player Danny White, younger brother of current Rebel assistant and former player Michael White, is the new Chief Development Officer. Danny played basketball first at Towson and then at Notre Dame.

Senior Executive Associate AD John Hartwell serves as Chief Operating Officer of the UMAA Foundation. Hartwell played basketball at The Citadel.

Former Ole Miss Basketball All-American Keith Carter is also now a member of the UMAA Foundation serving as Major Gifts Officer.

"We're really excited to have Keith on board," Danny White said. "Keith fits perfectly with what we're trying to accomplish with his energetic approach to fundraising and major gift philanthropy. His background and personality make him a valuable asset for Ole Miss Athletics."

Carter spent the past year with the University of Mississippi Foundation where he worked in donor relations and meeting the financial needs of the School of Business. His job with the UMAA Foundation will include similar tasks, which primarily involves gaining financial support for Ole Miss Athletics.

"Having a background with Ole Miss Athletics, it makes me really excited to be in this capacity and give back to the University for everything it has given to me," Carter said. "I gained a lot of great experience over in University Development working with the Business School, but Athletics feels like home and it's good to be back."

Carter will continue to serve with the Ole Miss Radio Network as the color analyst for Rebel hoops games alongside play-by-play announcer David Kellum. Carter joined the Ole Miss Radio network prior to the 2008-09 season after several years playing overseas in the Italian professional league.

A four-year starter at Ole Miss, Carter helped the Rebels to a pair of SEC Western Division titles in 1997 and 1998 and earned All-America honors after his 1999 senior season.

Carter returned to Oxford with his wife, Jill, and two children after the 2008 season ended in Italy.

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