OXFORD, Mississippi — Life without Marshall Henderson has arrived at Mississippi.
That might lead to some lower point totals and a little less excitement. It also might mean coach Andy Kennedy has fewer headaches.
Ole Miss returns six of its top seven contributors last season, including senior point guard Jarvis Summers, who has provided steady leadership and 1,233 career points during his first three seasons. Transfers like M.J. Rhett and Stefan Moody will join veterans like guard LaDarius White and forwards Aaron Jones and Anthony Perez to form arguably the deepest roster Kennedy has had in his nine-year tenure.
But the Rebels will need to replace Henderson's scoring. For all of his outbursts, suspensions and bad shots, he also scored 19 points per game and opposing teams were aware of him at all times.
Now it's Summers who likely becomes the focal point of the offense. He averaged 17.3 points per game last season.
"I don't need him to be anything different than he was last season," Kennedy said. "He needs to run the team, make open shots and give us quality minutes and quality possessions with the ball. If he does that, he'll be doing his job."
Ole Miss finished with a disappointing 19-14 record last season for many reasons, but one of the biggest was spotty post play on both offense and defense. The Rebels were outrebounded by more than two per game during conference play and there were no consistent scoring threats.
Kennedy hopes sophomores Sebastian Saiz and Dwight Coleby continue to improve and Rhett — a fifth-year 6-foot-9 transfer from Tennessee State — provides some added depth. Rhett averaged 10.9 points and 9.1 rebounds last season.
Summers said the team's depth should be a big positive. Nine out of the team's 13 scholarship players are juniors or seniors.
"We've got a lot of weapons, so it's my job to put my teammates in the right situations," Summers said.
Things to watch for Mississippi basketball this season:
IT'S SUMMERS TIME: Senior point guard Jarvis Summers returns to finish what's been a fine career so far. The 6-foot-3, 186-pounder is the SEC's active career leader with 1,233 points and 370 assists. He won't be asked to score much more than last season — when he averaged 17.3 points per game — but the Rebels will rely on his consistent leadership, passing and mid-range shooting ability. Said Kennedy: "He's got a good understanding of what it takes to win. He's not a real vocal guy, but he's one that shows it through his actions."
LIFE WITHOUT MARSHALL: Marshall Henderson's two seasons in Oxford will be remembered for many things, including tons of points and headaches. But when he wasn't busy mouthing off or getting suspended, he was one of the most dangerous scorers in Ole Miss history. Now his 19 points per game are gone and the Rebels will have to figure out a way to compensate for that loss.
POST PLAY: Ole Miss struggled in the post last season on both offense and defense, getting outrebounded by more than two per game in conference play. Kennedy hopes fifth-year senior transfer M.J. Rhett contributes and sophomores Dwight Coleby and Sebastian Saiz improve after ample playing time last year.
A DEEP ROSTER: Kennedy has always employed an up-tempo approach during his nine years in Oxford and this year's team appears well-suited to that style. The Rebels have nine juniors and seniors among their 13 scholarship players and all of them are expected to play a role.
VETERAN TRANSFERS: Ole Miss has beefed up its roster with two fifth-year transfers and two junior college transfers. Rhett is among the most important. The 6-foot-9 senior — who averaged 10.9 points and 9.1 rebounds last season at Tennessee State — will be asked to solidify a frontcourt that struggled last season.
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