March 4, 2009
University of Mississippi men''s basketball coach Andy Kennedy knows his team would not be where it is if not for freshman point guard Terrico White.
White''s emergence has helped the Rebels overcome three season-ending injuries and has kept them out of the bottom of the Southeastern Conference Western Division instead of Arkansas, tonight''s opponent at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark.
White, a native of Memphis, was recruited by Arkansas coach John Pelphrey and could have as easily become a Razorback.
"I always felt he had wonderful basketball potential, and he''s really a great kid," Pelphrey said. "He''s really come in, embraced his freshman season, and gotten some opportunities maybe a little bit earlier than he was going to get."
When guards Chris Warren, Eniel Polynice and Trevor Gaskins suffered season-ending knee injuries earlier this season, Kennedy didn''t know if Ole Miss (15-13, 6-8 SEC) could salvage its season.
"We''re sitting here with six league wins and if (White) had not developed the way he has, there is no way we could have won a game," Kennedy said. "When we lost Chris, we were really searching for somebody to give us some leadership from the point. For a kid who has never played any point guard at this level and very little at the high school level and to have done the job he has done for this team is remarkable. He''s had a tremendous season, and I''m very proud of him as all our guys for continuing to battle through all this adversity."
White (12.6 points per game) has led the Rebels in scoring the past four games, including a career-high 24 points in a 77-64 loss to Auburn. Since SEC play began, White has averaged 17.5 points per outing.
Pelphrey has already seen what White can do in a 74-68 loss to Ole Miss on Jan. 14. White had 18 points in that game.
"He has a pro body and is a pro talent," Pelphrey said. "With the success he''s had at the point guard position, I''m sure the Rebels are very proud of him, and they should be. He''s arguably the best freshman in the league."
Pelphrey has been impressed with what the Rebels have done without any scholarship seniors on the team.
Junior David Huertas (18.5 ppg.) and sophomores Zach Graham and Malcolm White were the only Ole Miss players with any experience coming into the season.
Kennedy hopes his Rebels can bounce back from a 90-69 home loss to Alabama.
"We were not happy with our performance Saturday, but we hope to put that behind us," Kennedy said. "I hope we can grasp the sense of urgency you always want your teams to play with. There are still some things to play for."
Kennedy put his team through a rare Sunday workout, usually considered an off day, and called the practice "spirited." Being together also gave the team a chance to watch the Razorbacks beat Georgia 89-67.
Michael Washington (15.8 ppg.) leads Arkansas (14-13, 2-12). Courtney Fortson (14.8 ppg.), Rotnei Clarke (11.8 ppg.), and Stefan Welsh (11.8 ppg.) also average in double figures.