Ahead of the new basketball season starting, men’s head coach Andy Kennedy met with the media to discuss his players and the expectations for this year’s Rebel basketball program.
The Rebels will look to improve on their 2015-16 campaign, in which they won 20 games but missed out on the NCAA tournament. With Sebastian Siaz being the team’s senior leader, Kennedy will have a lot of new faces on the floor when the Rebels tip off the season against UT Martin on November 11 at the Pavilion. Here are some of coach Kennedy’s answers from his press conference yesterday:
When asked about how his starting five and how he is letting it get close to the beginning of the season to officially set his starting five.
“As we are getting closer, I wouldn’t say we have a concrete starting five. 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. We had a scrimmage yesterday versus Little Rock, and there were five scholarship guys available. Our transfer, Dominik Olejniczak from Drake, he is not eligible to play this year, so he didn’t play, but the other eleven guys including Breein Tyree, who has just been cleared for full contact about seven to ten days ago, they all played and played well. So we will do this again as kind of a dress rehearsal. For those of you that know me, obviously, you want to win every game. But an exhibition game, you don’t want to start off on the wrong foot and send the wrong image. But I want to get all eleven of those guys some minutes and let them put on a uniform, perform in front of fans, let them shoot the ball in The Pavilion, and start to simulate some game stuff, because the following Friday, it is for real. That is when we are going to start tightening on our rotation…You will find out about the time they announce them. There is a little bit of gamesmanship here. Once we play a game, two games, we’ll adjust scouting wise. But the way we approach UT Martin, who is a good team, I won’t be very open with that. I will channel by inner- Belichick as we approach game one.”
Kennedy discussed how competition for minutes helps encourage better practices.
“It has become very competitive. Typically, I will change they lineups until Breein got cleared, we were still trying to figure out, do we want DeAndre Burnette, who is going to be playing some one, do we want him primarily point guard during practice. Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey, who played a lot of one for us last year based on necessity. His natural position is on the ball, so I am trying to move him off the ball. It put Justas Furmanavicius at a position where maybe I was going to put him on the four some, and some at the three. But with this group, say on a Tuesday when they have a very competitive practice, on Wednesday, the team that lost on Tuesday is coming back and saying they want the same teams, which is good from a competitive standpoint. Guys are certainly competing. They are understanding that there are 200 man-minutes, however, you cut it. I think they all think they are going to play 40 minutes a game. Their math isn’t great, but it’s better than that.”
Terence Davis, the Sophomore SG, has improved during the offseason according to Kennedy. Here’s what Kennedy had to say about his game going into the season.
“He’s had a great camp. He has made huge strides physically in his confidence…He likes to shoot. He is an athlete. He was brought here to be our best athlete, our best perimeter defender, to make plays at the basket. He is a tremendous finisher in the open floor. When a guy has made two or three jump shots, it’s amazing how quickly they fall in love with that because it is the path of least resistance. For him, he is a much better shooter, but I want him to be true to who he is, which is to be an athlete. Athletes are important, and I need him to play to that.”
Freshman guard, Breein Tyree, has recently been cleared after having offseason knee surgery, but Kennedy has high praise for the newcomer.
“This is sacrilegious for me to say this, but the initial name that jumps off the board is that you have a Russel Westbrook-type savage intensity to him. He jumps off the page the way he attacks. I don’t know if that is who he is going to be in a few months, but that is who he is. 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.”
Sebastian Siaz is back, and according to Kennedy, he has expanded his game as he looks to take on a leadership role.
He will be a guy that we will let shoot. I have seen him make a lot, but he has to make them when you are there, or he is going to be reprimanded back to the post. He has worked hard on that. I think it has given us another dimension. His strength has gotten better. He has always had a good sense of urgency. Focus has always been a bit of an issue when we talk about comparisons. When we talk about comparisons, I compare him to a Collie. I’m a dog guy. He is like a big ole Collie. He comes in bouncing and happy to see you and knocks you over. He licks you. That’s Sebastian. Sebastian is a big ole Collie. I want to put him in a position to be successful. He wants to be successful. He is great for me because I am not a big sunshine pumper and he is. He always sees the bright side of everything, so it makes our relationship stronger.”
The Rebels will have new faces in a lot of places but not at the helm. This will be Andy Kennedy’s 11th season as the Rebels head coach, and the winningest coach in Ole Miss Basketball history is looking to mold this young team into a winner.
Quotes courtesy of Andy Kennedy and Ole Miss Athletics.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.