Andy Kennedy gets first live-game look at Rebels in tonight’s exhibition contest with Morehouse
OXFORD, Miss. – The verdict isn’t in yet on how good this season’s Ole Miss men’s basketball team will be, but that’s okay with head coach Andy Kennedy as he likes what he sees so far. Entering his eleventh year with the Rebels, Kennedy looks forward to seeing his team maximize its potential.
He’ll get an early chance to see where Ole Miss stands tonight as the Rebels take on Morehouse at 6:00 pm (CT) in an exhibition game at the Pavilion.
Kennedy pleased with closed scrimmage
On Sunday, Kennedy caught a glimpse of how good his team could possibly be on both ends of the court as the Rebels held a closed scrimmage against Arkansas-Little Rock, a program that’s coming off a 30-5 record from last season and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Trojans defeated No. 5-seeded Purdue in the first round, before ultimately falling to No. 4-seeded Iowa State in the second round.
Arkansas-Little Rock returns only one of its three double-digit scorers from last season in senior guard Marcus Johnson, Jr.; however, the Trojans were still able to push Ole Miss to the limit in the closed scrimmage, something Kennedy felt his team needed.
“Little Rock came in here with an expectation of battling, and they battled. They also got two and a half hours of tape that we are in the midst of going through with our team. Teaching points. For the first time for me, sometimes the offense is better and sometimes the defense is better. You don’t know if it is because they are playing each other. So, for the first time, I could concentrate on the Rebels and I thought it was very productive for us.”
(Video credit: Andy Hodges, GamedayMiss.com)
Kennedy gets a live-action look at his team tonight vs Morehouse
When Kennedy has his team at practice, he sees the physicality and energy the players bring; he sees the hunger in each one’s eyes as all of them want to play this season. And, he will get a better idea of how some of the new players on the roster will react to live-game action, starting in tonight’s exhibition game against Morehouse (6 p.m. CT, SEC Network+).
“I know that when we are behind these closed doors and we are practicing, I have a pretty good feeling about what I am going to get every day,” Kennedy said. “We are going across the street to The Pavilion and when you play in that big, nice building and you are playing another team, different kids react in different ways.
“That is the next stage. I need to see, especially from our new guys, (players) react from that and take coaching situations like that. That is the next step for us.”
Some of the new guys to whom Kennedy was referring may need to have a positive impact early on for the Rebels — especially in the frontcourt — to take a lot of the attention off senior forward Sebastian Saiz. Incoming freshmen Karlis Silins (6-foot-11, 245-pounds) and Nate Morris (6-9, 235) are two big men about whom Kennedy is excited.
Kennedy believes Saiz, who made two 3-pointers in the team’s scrimmage Sunday, has expanded his game. Trojans’ head coach, Wes Flannigan, agreed. Saiz is Ole Miss’ top scorer and rebounder from last season. He averaged 11.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last year for the Rebels.
“The one thing is that Wes, who has seen our teams up close and personal for a long time, thought Sebastian Saiz has really improved and he has. I need him to be an all-league player and I think he is capable of doing that. And he (Wes) thought that we were big and physical and nothing came easy at the rim, which are all good signs. I thought those things as well, but it is nice to hear another coach say that.”
Andy Kennedy on Sebastian Saiz
Does Kennedy have a starting rotation set?
“As we are getting closer, I wouldn’t say we have a concrete starting five,” he said. “I think it is safe to say as you are filling out your fantasy team, you can put Sebastian Saiz in there. Other than that, there are still some guys in there that are wiggling around.”
Breein Tyree cleared to play
Somerset, New Jersey native and former St. Joseph’s point guard Breein Tyree was cleared over a week ago to play for Ole Miss this season. The freshman is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury that has limited him at practice. Tyree has had six knee operations and two ACL injuries.
In his final year at the high school level, Tyree (6-2, 192) averaged 16.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.
“I want him now to stop thinking about the knee. I want him in basketball shape,” Kennedy said about Tyree. “I want him to understand that pace of play at the SEC level, and then let’s go. I love his approach. Athletically, he is special.”
Kennedy compared Tyree to another spectacular guard for the Rebels–Stefan Moody.
“I have never had a guard like him here. He is not as vertically gifted as (Stefan) Moody, and Moody was cat-quick. But he is bigger, stronger off the bounce, more versatile in the things that he can do, and off one leg, he is as good as anyone as we have had prior to the injury. I don’t have any doubt that is going to come back. He’s not going to be back by Thursday, but he will be back.”
Andy Kennedy on Breein Tyree