October 26, 2009 8:37:00 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- University of Mississippi men''s basketball coach Andy Kennedy has a nice problem.
He has to find places for guards Terrico White, Chris Warren, Eniel Polynice, and Trevor Gaskins to play this season.
Kennedy didn''t have that dilemma last year when Warren, Polynice, and Gaskins all went down with knee injuries and White was the only point guard left.
The announcement that Warren, Polynice, and Gaskins were cleared in the summer to resume full activity gave Kennedy the prospect of starting the season with four healthy players who can play point guard. Warren and Polynice are juniors, while White and Gaskins are sophomores.
Depth in the backcourt is a luxury Kennedy saw other Southeastern Conference coaches exploit the past few seasons.
"It''s my turn," Kennedy said.
The Rebels could go to a four-guard lineup similar to what Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury used last season.
"I think you can do that because Polynice is close to 6-foot-6 and Terrico is 6-foot-5 and plays much larger because of his athleticism," Kennedy said. "I think it gives you an opportunity to play smaller while giving you versatility."
Kennedy said his staff will have to be careful determining playing time for guards who are used to having the basketball in their hands the majority of the time.
"It''s our job as coaches to figure out the strengths of our team and play accordingly," Kennedy said. "We don''t see any issue, and haven''t to this point in practice."
Kennedy expects Warren and White to get opportunities to make plays because "that''s what they do."
Warren averaged 19.6 points and four assists per game last season before injuring his knee injury last December. As a freshman in 2007-08, Warren was a unanimous All-SEC Freshman team pick and earned freshman All-America honors.
Kennedy said Warren has come back strong from his injury and hasn''t lost a step.
White liked what he saw from Warren at a recent scrimmage.
"He was going up and down the floor real fast," White said. "He really hasn''t lost any quickness and speed."
White made a name for himself last season when Warren was out.
League coaches selected him SEC Freshman of the Year after he ranked fourth in the conference with 18.4 points per game. His 2.9 3-pointers per outing in SEC games ranked second in the league.
It was such an impressive first season for White that he almost thought about turning professional.
Kennedy was glad White''s mother helped convince him otherwise.
"All kids want to have a chance to pursue their dream," Kennedy said. "The NBA is in Terrico White''s future. When and where that happens, it''s my responsibility to make sure he''s prepared for that.
"Physically, he''s as good as God makes. He can do whatever he wants physically. We forget he''s still a kid at 19 years old and there''s a maturing process that continues. His game and approach continues to improve. His future is very bright."
White said he''d like to remain at point guard, but he will gladly give up the position for a healthy Warren. He has already taken the necessary steps in practice so Warren can be point guard again.
"It''s just me going back to the (off) guard," White said. "I just won''t have the ball in my hands all of the time. I just want to do what it takes to help the team win."
He knows also adding Polynice and Gaskins back to the mix gives the Rebels a strong backcourt.
"We should have the best backcourt in the SEC and probably the nation," White said. "With all of them back, it gives us more options."
The media has picked the Rebels (16-15, 7-9 SEC last season) to finish second in the SEC Western Division this season.
White knows if Ole Miss can win the SEC West, it can also compete for the conference title and make a run in the NCAA tournament.
Kennedy doesn''t want to push lofty expectations on his team, but those dreams could be realized because his players want to be the best they can be.
"It''s the most competitive team I''ve ever coached as far as their approach to practice," Kennedy said. "It''s been tremendous. They are very hungry.
"I like the pieces and the focus, but until you go through that daily grind, it''s just speculation at this point."
Ole Miss will play host to Auburn-Montgomery in an exhibition game at 6 p.m. Nov. 6. It will open the regular season at 6 p.m. Nov. 13 against Arkansas-Little Rock in Oxford.
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