Follow the Leader

Ole Miss' senior point guard, Chris Warren, has fairly modest goals this offseason. Actually, more than anything, he just wants to win. Read about it inside.

Steadman Short, Demarco Cox and Isaiah Massey – having just arrived on campus for their first taste of Ole Miss' offseason strength and conditioning program two weeks ago – piled into a car and headed over to the indoor practice facility.

As they pulled into the parking lot, they noticed an available space near the door of the football weight room, where the team was spending the afternoon. The new trio of Rebels, all of the 6-foot-8 variety, parked and slowly reached for their gear as they headed toward the side entrance.


They looked around and pondered what to do next. This was one of what is sure to be many trips to the IPF, but still unfamiliar ground for a talented crop of freshman who have yet to experience the daily demands of Southeastern Conference basketball.

Even the simple demand of a locked door.

Chris Warren, now the leader of a new-look Ole Miss lineup, soon arrived. He exited his car and walked toward the door. Sure, it was locked, but he simply walked to another nearby entrance and made his way in.

Chris Warren

And the trio followed suit.

It was allegorical, in a sense. Warren, following the departures of Terrico White, Murphy Holloway and Eniel Polynice, has become the veteran presence these newcomers will look up to over his senior season. No longer can he blend in and allow his gaudy performances to do his talking.

This is his team now.

"As an upcoming senior, you really don't have a choice but to feel responsible," he said.

Warren enters his senior season ranked 15th in school history with 1,372 career points, third with 239 3-pointers, third with 621 3-point attempts and 10th with a 16.9 scoring average. He's made a 3-pointer in each of his school-record 45 straight games, which stands as the third-longest streak in conference history.

But despite his laundry list of career accomplishments, the Orlando, Fla. native has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament in any of his previous three seasons, including his sophomore season, when he was sidelined after 11 games due to a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

"New faces, new things are going to happen," Warren said. "We haven't been to the NCAAs, so with new faces, maybe we're going to get there."

Though he'll be called upon to carry much of the scoring burden, as well as leadership responsibilities, Warren won't be alone this season.

Zach Graham and Trevor Gaskins are fellow signees of the 2007 recruiting class, and were all a part of three near-miss seasons which ended without a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss has failed to reach March Madness for eight consecutive seasons.

Chris Warren

"Me, Zach and Trevor, we all feel like it's going to be our team," Warren said. "We know what we have to do in order to have a successful season. You can say we're the foundation for (the newcomers). They look up to us. If they see us working hard, they're going to work hard. They go as we go."

Warren, admittedly, hates to lose.

He'd rather not reflect on a bounce-back junior season. Despite having not played for upwards of six months, he was still able to break his own school record with 111 3-pointers, the ninth-most in SEC history, and finish third among SEC players in scoring.

But those statistics, no matter how impressive, don't matter. Ole Miss ended the season 24-11 overall and made yet another appearance in the National Invitation Tournament.

He would gladly swap those numbers for more wins.

"I got a problem with losing, so anytime I lose, I don't feel too good," Warren said. "If we win this season, I'll feel a lot better. In my last year, we've got to make it to the NCAAs. If we make it there, it could be the start of continuous years of us making it there."

He has fairly modest goals this offseason. He'd like to improve his ball-handling and turnovers, as well as tighten up his defense, which he wasn't particularly pleased with last season. But more than anything, he wants to win.


"I want to improve on winning," he said. "Whatever I've got to do for us to get to the NCAA Tournament, that's what I'm going to do."

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