#47 Ole Miss: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #47
Conference Rank: #5 Southeastern Conference
2009-10: 24-11, 9-7
2009-10 postseason: NIT
Coach: Andy Kennedy (85-50 at Mississippi, 103-62 overall)
Mississippi finished the 2009-2010 campaign with some nice wins in the NIT and an impressive 24 win season, but the Rebels had an opportunity to reach the NCAA Tournament, but failed to capitalize on their chances. Now this team has a little rebuilding to do, but with five experienced players returning and a plethora of talented newcomers, this could be the year that Ole Miss finally makes it back to the big stage.
Key Losses: F DeAundre Cranston, F Murphy Holloway, G Eniel Polynice, G Terrico White
Coach Andy Kennedy has a total of seven newcomers headed to Oxford. The four incoming freshmen will collectively have to provide some depth to this team and that should not be a problem with Demarco Cox and Dundrecous Nelson leading the way. Cox is a 6-8, 295 pound center who is quite agile for his size and could add more than just size on the offensive end. Isaiah Massey will bolster the depth up front even more with his ability to hit the glass. Nelson is probably the best of the newcomers and the point guard is a superb athlete who will create plays and be a star on this team in the coming years. Will Norman may find it more difficult to see playing time as a freshman, but he is at least another body at Coach Kennedy’s disposal.
The backcourt has their star in Chris Warren. He is the unquestioned leader of this team after averaging 17.2 points and 3.5 assists during his junior campaign. Those numbers may go up with more of the scoring load sitting on Warren’s shoulders. However, there are a couple other perimeter players who are ready to step in and play a bigger role. Trevor Gaskins had a great freshman year and followed it up with what was basically a sophomore slump. The shooter only connected on 28.4 percent of his attempts from long range and ended the year with a mere 4.7 points per game. Gaskins needs to find his shot if he hopes to acquire and maintain a starting job. Zach Graham was a part-time starter last season and was the second most prolific outside shooter behind Warren. Graham, at 6-6, has the size to shoot over opponents or attack the basket. His size is also quite helpful on the glass.
Terrance Henry and Reginald Buckner both averaged a little over 17 minutes per game last year. Those numbers will have to go up due to lack of other options. The part-time starters will now be counted on to do a lot more. Henry is a versatile scorer who can stretch out the defense with his three-point shooting ability, but he is also not afraid to throw around his 6-9, 205 pound frame in the paint. Buckner is the more traditional big man. He was not much of a scorer as a freshman, but he was limited due to an ankle sprain. If Buckner starts scoring, he will be a superb player in the SEC. Buckner is already a great rebounder and shot blocker and if he can add eight to ten points per game on top of that, he will be looking at all-conference accolades. The biggest thing stopping him is his knack for getting into foul trouble.
Who to Watch:
With just five returning players who saw any significant playing time last year, Ole Miss would like to get some immediate production from their group of experienced newcomers instead of having to rely too heavily on the freshmen. Steadman Short is a lengthy power forward who has the skill to immediately be a quality backup. Fellow junior college transfer Donald Williams is a great shooter and if his shot is falling, he will be a great asset off the bench. Nick Williams, a transfer from Indiana, played one year with the Hoosiers where the 6-4 guard averaged 8.9 points per game.
The overall team depth should be in good shape with the healthy mix of transfers and freshmen. Sooner or later players like Cox and Nick Williams could be starters and at the least they should be superb players off of the bench. That gives Mississippi just as much talent as they had last season. With the senior leadership of Warren, Ole Miss should be able to win some of those clutch games they lost last season and be on the right side of the bubble.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Chris Warren, Senior, Guard, 17.2 ppg
Trevor Gaskins, Junior, Guard, 4.7 ppg
Zach Graham, Senior, Guard, 9.2 ppg
Terrance Henry, Junior, Forward, 6.4 ppg
Reginald Buckner, Sophomore, Forward, 4.1 ppg
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