Full transcript of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin and South Carolina head coach Frank Martin. The Rebels travel to Knoxville, Tenn., to play the Volunteers on Wednesday (7 p.m., SEC Network) and then return home to play the Gamecocks on Saturday (12:30 p.m., SEC Network).
It's a big challenge going into Knoxville Wednesday night. Cuonzo has a very good basketball team, anchored by those two big boys up front. Jordan McRae is having a Player of the Year-type season to this point, so we know there will be a number of challenges that we will have to face.
On Martavious Newby's surgery and timetable for his return:
We don't know as far as timetable. The surgery was successful. They put a plate in his hand. If it was a football player, they would tape it up, pad it, and he could probably play within a week or so based on pain tolerance. With it involving the ability to catch the ball, that's not an option for us. It will be a day-to-day thing. He will certainly be out this week, and honestly it will be week-to-week depending on how quickly he responds to the procedure.
On replacing Martavious Newby:
There's an opportunity there. And as we discussed after the (Mississippi State) game, even though his numbers don't jump off the page at you, people who cover us understand the importance of Newby and the energy and toughness that he brings. He's probably our best on-ball defender on the perimeter, so there are a number of different areas that he was very helpful to us. We will have to do it by committee, whether that's a guy playing a few more minutes here or there in different combinations, or opportunities for new guys. That will all be determined moving forward.
On Ole Miss leading the SEC with 7.1 blocked shots per game:
Last year, we lost the all-time leading shot-blocker in the history of our program and a guy who I think finished in the top five in the SEC's history in Reginald Buckner. This year, it's a little different. We're doing it by committee. Aaron Jones is leading our team. He is very active, he has quick hands, and he is long. He's a different shot-blocker than Reg, though, in that he probably does as much on the perimeter as he does at the basket. He's really quick off his feet and he has the ability to get his hand on a lot of balls.
And then the rest of our guys, everybody just has that skill set. Juan Sebastian Saiz, one of our true freshmen, is really long and has good timing. Dwight Coleby is starting to round into shape after an early season injury, and he's athletic at the basket. Demarco Cox, our other big, has length and size at the rim. It's just really who we are. We have to make good decisions, as to when do we try to block the shot and when to stay in rebounding position. We had some real issues leading into conference play. We have gotten a little better once we have gotten in league play about taking ourselves out of rebounding position by trying to block too many shots. As we have garnered more experience, because we're relatively young up front, guys are having a better of sense in when to go try to block the shot.
On riding a wave of momentum with four straight wins:
The numbers say that we have won four in a row, so I certainly like those numbers. Other than that, we're just trying to get a little better. We're getting contributions from different guys, whether it is some of the young guys I just mentioned or Anthony Perez, who played very little last year. He's probably had his best three-game stretch in his career, as he's garnering more confidence. He's being more productive. As a whole, we're getting contributions from new guys, and as a result, we're playing a little better.
We play a very talented Ole Miss team. They're playing very well, 5-1 in league play. They're shooting the ball well. Marshall and Jarvis are playing as well as any guards not only in the SEC but in college basketball. Jarvis is putting up tremendous numbers, as far at 55 percent from 3-point line and 50 percent from the field at the point guard position. He's physical strong. Marshall does what he's good at doing, which is making shots, getting open and making plays. They are a very talented team and do a great job of using their big guys diving to the basket and making plays.
On Jarnell Stokes:
He's done a great job. He comes in and watches film. He was in the gym this morning working out. He's seeing the floor a lot better and making plays. He's better off the dribble. He's aggressive in making moves to the basket. He's rebounding the ball well on both ends of the floor. He's always been a good offensive rebounder, but he's doing a better of getting defensive rebounds and boxing out. He's playing good basketball overall.
Once again, we're excited to play at home. It feels like we have played at home one time all month. Getting around our fans will be great for our players. We play (Texas) A&M, which we just went head-to-head with here shortly ago and then have to turn around, travel again and play at Ole Miss. I'm coaching against two guys with whom I have great personal relationships with and respect tremendously. Both have really good teams. It's an exciting week for us, as every day is, when we realize how lucky we are with what we get to do every day.
On the team's sense of urgency with a 0-6 SEC record:
That is what my job title is directly tied to. I can't put winning games above winning people. Right now, we have to continue to make our guys understand that we're trying to win people. If we can figure out a way to keep our kids excited and connected with who we are, and that we're not that far off, rather than solely focused in on winning and losing games, then that will happen. And eventually, when you win one, your kids feel better because we're so young that you don't them to get discouraged because everyone who reaches out to them in social media is probably discouraged that we're not winning.
My job is to make sure that our guys continue to stay encouraged because we are close. You're at Missouri, and you are down two possessions with 50 seconds to go, so you're right there. You get a stop, make a shot, and now it's a one-possession game, but it didn't happen. We're fighting our tails off to put ourselves in the same place where we could have two, three or four conference wins right now, so we have to keep our kids focused on that.
On progress when looking at the game within the game:
I'm extremely proud of my kids. I have been unhappy after one game, and that was the Georgia game. We did not fight and we never gave ourselves a chance to win. That's the only game that I have been unhappy about. Early in the year, we went into Oklahoma State, and they made the run in the first half, and we fell apart. We just went into Missouri, which is very comparable and very similar to Oklahoma State, and an equal home-court environment. We got down I think 11-0, and next you thing know, it's 20-16, so we have grown as a team.
That's my job. It's to keep my guys focused. My kids are really young, and they don't understand anything yet. I don't have any upperclassmen to make them understand reality. It's my job to get them connected with the fact that even though we might not be getting the results from a win-loss standpoint that we are a better basketball team and these are the reasons why. That way they stay excited about what we're doing, which they are right now, and we can continue to progress.