2007-08 Ole Miss Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #143
Conference Rank: #12 SEC
2006-07: 21-13, 8-8, 1st (t) East
2006-07 postseason: NIT
Coach Andy Kennedy did a magnificent job turning around the Mississippi program in just one year. There is more work to be done and losing three starters will force the Rebels to take a step back, but the program is still headed in the right direction under Coach Kennedy. However, that will not equate to another trip to the postseason this year.
The backcourt trio of Todd Abernethy, Clarence Sanders and Bam Doyne carried Ole Miss into the NIT. With that trio gone, the team is desperately looking for playmakers, scorers and shooters. Abernethy was the steady floor leader, averaging 5.5 assists per contest, Sanders developed into the best long range shooter on the team and Doyne did a little bit of everything. Justin Cerasoli only saw action in seven games before opting to find another home somewhere else, again. Forwards Andy Ogide, Trey Hampton and Xavier Hansbro have opted to transfer after seeing limited action in 2006-2007.
The Rebels are in desperate need of some depth with the mass exodus from Oxford and there are some talented newcomers ready to step in. Point guard Christopher Warren is not exactly an SEC talent quite yet, but he is a great competitor and will likely be asked to play right away. Shooting guard David Huertas won a national championship with Florida as a freshman and averaged 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds during his only campaign with the Gators. The Puerto Rican native is the quality shooter that the team urgently needs. Incoming freshman Trevor Gaskins and walk-on Will Poole will look to find some minutes at the off-guard spot as well. Junior college transfers Terrence Watson and Wesley Jones will solidify the forward spots. Watson is a great defender, while Jones will add more of a scoring punch. If incoming freshman Zach Graham can develop a consistent outside shot, he will be in the mix at the small forward position. Kevin Cantinol is a little rough, but the 6-9, 240 pound Martinique product has the tools to develop into a quality player in the coming years.
Who to Watch:
The frontcourt will be fine with Dwayne Curtis and Kenny Williams. Curtis, who averaged 12.2 points and 8.3 rebounds as a junior, struggled through much of the 2006-2007 season with a foot injury. When healthy, the 6-8, 280 pound center can battle with anybody in the SEC. Williams added 7.1 points and 5.7 boards during his first year with the Rebels. Williams’ best attribute may be on the defensive end where he has proven to be a quality shot blocking threat. The former junior college transfer is expected to increase his production for his senior campaign and the duo of Curtis and Williams could end up to be one of the most underappreciated frontcourts in the conference.
There is just too much talent lost for Mississippi to think about another trip to the NIT. The absence of Abernethy at the point is huge and there is not much experience ready to run the show. Brian Smith, a senior, has some playing time under his belt, but he will need a heroic senior campaign to lead his team to the postseason. If all the transfers live up to their potential, the Rebels will win a big game or two, but do not expect a consistent performance.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Brian Smith, Senior, Guard, 1.9 points per game
David Huertas, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Wesley Jones, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Kenny Williams, Senior, Forward, 7.1 points per game
Dwayne Curtis, Senior, Center, 12.2 points per game