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Ray, Kennedy see rivalry differently


Matthew Stevens



BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- It's clear the two Southeastern Conference men's basketball coaches in the state of Mississippi have a different perspective on their annual rivalry. 


New Mississippi State University coach Rick Ray said Thursday at SEC Media Day in Hoover, Ala., he likely will share the views of the MSU football coaches that the games against the University of Mississippi are a high priority. 


"I still think we're going to be evaluated by it, but it's just a fact that we have more games that we play (than football)," Ray said. "For me and the basketball program, it's important." 


Ray, who is beginning his first season as a Division I head coach, was involved as an assistant in some intense rivalries at Purdue University and Clemson University before he accepted the Bulldogs' position last March. 


"The Indiana-Purdue rivalry is pretty high," Ray said. "I've been told the Mississippi State and Ole Miss rivalry is just as important. You want to protect your home state and you want to win those rivalry games to protect your home state. It has in-roads in terms of recruiting and vibrates throughout the state as how people look at your program." 


Rick Stansbury, Ray's predecessor, consistently downplayed the significance of the rivalry, and wasn't swept by the Rebels after his first 


season in Starkville. He finished his career 21-8 all-time against Ole Miss, including a 13-1 record in Humphrey Coliseum. 


Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy, who is 4-8 all-time against MSU, said the nature of the schedule doesn't allow the Louisville native to get too emotional about one game against the Bulldogs despite the natural fan anticipation. 


"Based on the dynamics of the sports are just so different," Kennedy said. "People sometimes get irritated at me because they would say, 'Hey this is a big game coach', and yes, I want to beat them, but it's one of 30 for us." 


Kennedy, who has seen siblings graduate from MSU, said Thursday the time lapse between games allows the schools' football rivalry to generate more hype. In basketball, teams usually play another game three days later. 


"Our football coach can bask in a victory for six weeks before a bowl or has to deal with it for the next nine to 10 months before another game is played," Kennedy said. "I understand the rivalry, trust me. It's a different mentality completely." 






Ray allowing Twitter for his players during season 


For the first time since a ban was instituted a one and a half ago, members of the MSU men's basketball program and players will be allowed to use Twitter. 


Ray said Thursday he would allow his players the opportunity to embrace social media as long as they are maintain a responsible handling of the technology to communicate with fans. 


"I think the biggest thing for us is we want to teach guys to be young men," Ray said. "In order to be a man, you have to be willing to handle 


responsibility. Unless a kid is going to do anything on social media to embarrass us or himself, then he'll have access to Twitter or Facebook. I don't have any problem with that." 


Ray has been a big advocate of Twitter and uses his account, @RickRay1, frequently to make announcements and to communicate with fans. 


For a school and athletic department that embraces social media -- the Twitter hashtag #HailState is painted in the end zone at Davis Wade Stadium -- Ray's position seems to be more adaptable to the new era of the student-athlete. 


"Regular kids and people use social media," Ray said. "If a regular kid uses social media, I want to give our guys the opportunity to do that. My goal is to teach my kids so I don't have to (ban) that. I have no problem with them using it and I want them to use it." 


The ban, created by Stansbury in February 2011, was a result of tweets sent out from then-senior guard Ravern Johnson and sophomore forward Renardo Sidney. 




Kennedy rejects job security rests with NCAA tournament berth in 2013 


Kennedy knew the question was coming, so he decided to have fun with it. 


Kennedy, who is 125-77 in six seasons with Rebels, was asked if he felt he needed to lead his team to the NCAA tournament this season to save his job. As the question was being asked, he joked with reporters, saying, "Oh I love where this is going." He answered by saying, "I haven't been told that, (but) I know we all want to take that next step," Kennedy said. 


Kennedy has yet to make an NCAA tournament berth as a Division I head coach. He has had several close calls at Oxford. After posting five 20-win seasons at Ole Miss, Kennedy has twice made it to the semifinals of the National Invitational Tournament, but speculation is fans are concerned the program isn't moving toward its first NCAA berth since 2002. 


"I don't really think about it, and I know that sounds crazy with a wife and kids I'm responsible for, but I can't think about my job security," Kennedy said. "I have enough to think about trying to get my guys to make a free throw. I can control that. All I know is I got a contract and that's the extent of my concern with it." 




Alabama excited about freshman phenom Pollard 


The University of Alabama's only newcomer on the 2012-13 team is looking to help the team build on last year's NCAA tournament appearance. 


Freshman Devonta Pollard, a 6-foot-8 forward and top 25 national recruit from Kemper County High School, is expected to start and to contribute from day one. 


Pollard, a McDonald's All-American nominee, is a left-handed small forward with excellent athleticism and 3-point range, but he is willing to post up and can finish with either hand. He led Kemper County High to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A state championship while averaging 23.8 points, 15.7 rebounds, and 5.1 blocked shots. He was named the MVP of the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. He didn't compete in the McDonald's game because of an injury. 


"The goal for him is to learn our system, learn college basketball, and learn the requirements of being a college student," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "Every day is a brand new experience for him."



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