Full transcript of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from LSU head coach Johnny Jones and South Carolina head coach Frank Martin. The Rebels host the Tigers on Wednesday night (8 p.m., CSS) and then travel to Columbia, S.C. to play the Gamecocks on Saturday (3:30 p.m., FSN).
It's week two of the SEC grind, and we're looking forward to having the opportunity to come back home Wednesday against a very good LSU team.
On playing younger players more, particularly in the frontcourt:
We're still evaluating that. I have not been as pleased with our production as we need to be as a frontline unit. In the second half, we got production out of a number of our young guys, namely Dwight Coleby, who's just not getting back into form after an early leg injury that set him behind. Anthony Perez helped us some at the four. We have played Anthony in a number of different positions in his two years here. We have played him some on the wing. We felt like his ability at the four position gives us more versatility, not only offensively, but he was very active with six rebounds as well. It will be something we continue to experiment with.
On Jarvis Summers' improvement in the mid-range game:
Jarvis has unquestionably been our MVP to this point in the season. He has evolved into a junior in our program. First and foremost, having been in the program for three years, physically he's stronger he has ever been, which enables him to make the plays both physically, and from an experience standpoint, having gone through the battles that he has endured, we're starting to see him play like the all-league player that he's capable of being. Percentage-wise, he's taking better shots. He's stronger, so that he can finish through contact. And he really worked in the offseason at knocking down open looks. When he plays with Marshall, one thing that we missed in our first two SEC games was the spacing that Marshall creates while he's on the floor, not only as our leading scorer at about 19 points per game and shooting close to 40 percent from 3, which are pretty effective numbers, but the spacing that he creates because of his presence and his ability to stretch the defense. Jarvis has done a good job of playing in those gaps.
On Jarvis Summers' role with Marshall Henderson returning to the mix:
We play Jarvis in a number of different spots. When Marshall is not here, he plays predominantly off the ball and Derrick Millinghaus' numbers go up tremendous en lieu of Marshall's absence. With Marshall back, we will continue to play Jarvis off the ball at times when Derrick is in the game, but he will go back more of a lead-guard mentality when he's with Marshall, setting the floor for our team, running our team, and continuing to be aggressive offensively. We have played three games without Marshall, and we have played 12 with Marshall, so he will be able to come back pretty seamlessly and fit right back into what we were doing prior to his absence.
On LSU's Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey:
They are really, really talented, maybe as talented a frontline as there is in our league, with those two combined with Johnny O'Bryant, who's probably the best back-to-basket scorer in our league. It's a tremendous challenge. We have to be very physical and keep our bodies on them. We can't come into this game thinking that we're just going to out-jump them or out-reach them. They're all long and athletic. We have to be very physical at the point of attack. We call it first blood. We have to try to get to the ball first because of their tremendous athleticism, and they are very versatile. When you play those three guys together, with Martin playing the three, it's a long, athletic frontline, so we know they're going to pose a number of difference challenges for us.
On missing out on Cleveland, Miss., native Johnny O'Bryant in recruiting:
We spent a lot of time and energy recruiting Johnny. He's just up the road from us. We knew he was going to be a tremendous talent, and nothing that he has done at LSU has been surprising to me. He was going to come in and have a chance to make an immediate impact, which he did as a freshman. As he evolved into his sophomore season, he was an all-league-caliber player as we anticipated, and now he's one of the best frontcourt guys in all of college basketball. I'm proud to see him develop. He's a good kid from a good family. I certainly wish he was wearing the red, white and blue on Wednesday.
On balancing shots in the backcourt between Derrick Millinghaus, Jarvis Summers and Marshall Henderson:
You take what the game gives you. Sometimes we want to try to predetermine who's going to do what when and where. Basketball doesn't work like that. You have to put yourself into position, you always have to be ready, and you have to take the game gives you. Derrick, for instance, makes three of his first four field goals in Starkville on Saturday and was in a very good rhythm, and as a result, we took an early lead. Those same shots appeared late in the game, and we weren't able to knock them down, and that ultimately is the difference between winning and losing. He finishes the game 5-for-17 from the floor after starting 3-for-4. He wasn't as efficient at the end as we would have hoped.
On the impact of Marshall Henderson:
I challenge the guys every day that the fire needs to burn internally. If they're waiting for me to motivate them every day, then we are all missing the boat. The advantage with Marshall returning on Wednesday is first and foremost his ability to put the ball in the basket. Secondly, it's his ability to be the focal point of LSU's scouting report. I guarantee there will be a lot of Marshall Henderson conversation, and when you don't have him, then the focus shifts to others. Sometimes guys are second or third options for a reason. There are a lot of people who want to be Batman, but they need to be Robin, and we need to get Batman back, so then we can play off the spacing that Marshall creates, and he will be back with us on Wednesday, and I'm sure he will be excited to start SEC play his senior year.
We're looking forward to great challenges this week, one there at Ole Miss, and we're excited about having the opportunity to be back at home against a team that's playing very well in Vanderbilt on Saturday. Obviously, with Henderson returning, it presents a great challenge for us, the great player that he is, and we look forward to that challenge there at Ole Miss Wednesday night.
On preparing for Ole Miss without seeing Marshall Henderson the last two games:
It's tough preparation because it's hard to simulate what he's capable of doing out there on the floor. He's really quick at catching-and-shooting and rising up and making difficult shots and making plays. You have to go back and probably know that he's going to be screened for, and you have to prepare for getting off screens and try to make sure that you're there on the catch with him. It's one of those games that you know you're going to be in a battle all night long, and you're hopeful -- knowing that he's going to score -- that you can contest and contain him most of the night.
On Johnny O'Bryant and his maturation:
Johnny has made some really positive strides for us. He really finished the year strong last year for us. He had a tremendous summer. Johnny is a part of everyone's scouting report now, and a lot times for the teams that we're playing, their defense has been designed to try and take Johnny away for us, and when that has happened, he has made the right decisions, in terms of making extra passes and plays. When he has had the ability to be in one-on-one situations there in the post, he's played well and shot a high percentage for us. It's just a matter of getting that balance for him. He's been terrific for us.
On added motivation for Johnny O'Bryant going home and playing against Ole Miss:
It's a normal reaction for most young men because you have an opportunity to have family and friends, most of the time, there in attendance. You're playing one of the state schools where you have grown up and you want to make sure that you have a great showing there. It's no different, I'm sure, from a lot of pro athletes who feel that same way. You have some added weight, but we try to make sure that they concentrate and focus, in terms of playing in between those lines once we throw that ball up. It's not where you're playing but how you're executing and the impact that you're able to make for your team.
On the Ole Miss frontcourt and its development:
They are really good and able to play off of those guards. Their guards are extremely quick and play really well. Their post guys have an opportunity to benefit because of the help that you have to try to give to the other perimeter guys; you allow those guys to get free, and they have done an excellent job of getting to the offensive glass and making plays around the rim.
On moving Jarell Martin to the bench this past weekend at South Carolina and the flexibility that gives the LSU frontcourt:
The beauty of our basketball team, and it's early on in conference play, is the versatility of our team. We have about eight or nine guys who we have been playing consistent minutes, and we have to make sure -- whether it's scouting report-oriented or the opponent that we are playing -- that we have the best group out there that we feel like can get us off to the best start in those games. Jarrell has the ability to play inside and out, which is certainly a great benefit for us. We have the ability to move him around.
It's another great week in the SEC. We go to Texas A&M midweek, and then we host Ole Miss. At Texas A&M, Billy Kennedy is continuing to build that program and they are off to a great start with two great wins out of the shoot. And Ole Miss is a defending NCAA Tournament team and conference tournament winner. They will have Marshall Henderson back after not having him for the first couple of games.
On optimism after Saturday's 71-68 loss to LSU:
We played a really good LSU team. Look at what that team has accomplished up to this point. They lost at UMass, a top-20 team in the country, at the buzzer. They lost to Memphis, a top-20 team in the country, in an absolute dogfight. They got beat at home by Tennessee, which a top-20 team in the country, and unfortunately they lost a tough game to Rhode Island, which it happens to everybody. We went nose to nose with a really good basketball team. We just didn't do enough to win, but that should not take away from some of the really good things we did to give ourselves a chance to win.
On dealing with Marshall Henderson as an X Factor:
As the opposing coach, he's an unbelievable player. He averages 19 points per game. If you're half a step late, or half a second late, it's a 3 and a basket. He's an unbelievable competitor. I don't think anyone gives him the credit that he deserves for the competitor he is. He elevates the players around him because of his competitiveness. I have a lot of respect for what Marshall Henderson does as a player.