All Eyes on Murph

When fans and media alike look back on a trying season for Ole Miss in 2008-09, many will recall the heroics of freshman guard Terrico White, who shouldered much of the offensive load en route to a 16-15 overall record.

The SEC Freshman of the Year shined as the focal point in the Rebels' scoring attack, as his 425 points scored were the second-most ever by an Ole Miss freshman. Even more, White capped a stellar inaugural year by winning a gold medal as a member of the U.S. U19 National Team that claimed the FIBA World Championship held in New Zealand over the summer.

However, somewhat lost amidst the play of White were the contributions of fellow freshman Murphy Holloway. Though a bit undersized as a 6-foot-7 forward, Holloway topped Ole Miss and ranked 13th among SEC players in rebounding at 6.6 per game last season, while adding 8.4 points.

"It was fast for me last year," the Irmo, S.C. native said of his freshman campaign. "I didn't know what to expect because I was just thrown out there. I feel like I'm a veteran. I played some games for 38 minutes and on down to 28. I've played them all. The freshmen that played last year – myself, Terrance (Henry), Terrico, Will Bogan– we've got some games under our belts. We're ready."

Last season, Holloway posted six double-doubles, which ranked seventh-most in the SEC and second-most among league freshmen. His team-leading 54.8 field goal percentage topped all conference freshmen, while his 6.6 rebounding average was third.

Unlike a year ago, however, this season Holloway will be looked upon to carry a Rebel frontcourt lacking in experience. Following the transfer of Malcolm White, Holloway enters 2009-10 as the only returning starter at forward, having played in 31 career games.

"With Murphy, we're just looking for more consistency," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "He was thrust into the fire last season and led us in rebounding and had six double-doubles. We just want that on a more consistent basis. If he is, and all indications are what we're anticipating, then he'll have a monster year."

With Ole Miss offering enviable depth on the wings, an impetus has been placed on the bigs so far in fall practices. Along with Holloway, newcomers Reginald Buckner and DeAngelo Riley are being looked to for added minutes, as well as returning senior DeAundre Cranston.

"Reggie is really talented," said Holloway. "Coach (Kennedy) still gets on DeAngelo for being in the right spot and things like that, but we all did that same stuff as freshmen. DeAundre Cranston is a good rebounder, shot blocker and can score. He's a big body down there."

But after tallying double-digit scoring figures on 14 occasions and leading the team in rebounding 14 times, it's Holloway who's getting extra attention as an exhibition contest with Auburn-Montgomery looms Friday at 6 p.m.

While more polished around the rim with a year under his belt, Holloway has sought improvement in his mid-range jump shooting this fall. He's also added more than 20 pounds, boosting his frame to 231 from his previous 210 playing weight.

"I've just worked on my mid-range jump shot a lot more," he said. "Coach Kennedy said it's looked a lot better. I'm also working on my ball-handling. I've gained weight and am up to 231. I'm physically stronger. I think that's helped me. I'm not the tallest person down there, but I feel like my strength can help me get it done. I feel like I can bang with anybody. I also have a 7-foot wingspan, so that helps also."

Another area of emphasis has been developing his off-hand. Being a lefty, Holloway said he's been too reliant on his shooting hand, but is working to better his game all-around.

"His right hand is still, obviously, not his strongest attribute," Kennedy added. "He's gotten to where he's confidently making 17 and 18 footers. If he can do that, he's so fast at getting it to the basket, I think him being left handed is a natural advantage – especially for post guys. And he's got a nose for the ball. Offensively, he's a tremendous rebounder, so we're trying to get him to have that same focus on the defensive end."

Barring injury, 2009-10 is sure to be memorable, as Ole Miss is led by a backcourt stacked in talent.

And while boasting less experience inside, the team is sure to see production from Holloway, as the ferocious leaper aims to take the next step from reliable contributor to an all-league performer in year two.

"I'm ready. I feel like this season is going to be a big one for us," Holloway said. "We have a lot of weapons. With Trevor (Gaskins), Eniel (Polynice) and Chris (Warren) back, there are more options. Those guys have matured after seeing things from an outside perspective. In practice, I feel like everything just flows so much better. Everything goes together."

"He's made a tremendous transformation," said Kennedy of Holloway. "He's been one of our most productive guys day in and day out."

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