Kennedy greets Rebel faithful|[5/25/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 25, 2006

It’s not difficult to pick Andy Kennedy out of the crowd. With the exception of the gym, he is usually the tallest person around.

His expectations for the Ole Miss basketball program are as lofty as his 6-foot, 5-inch frame.

Kennedy talked up the Rebels basketball team in front of a crowd of about 100 red and blue clad Ole Miss supporters at the Vicksburg Convention Center on Wednesday night. It was Kennedy’s first trip to the River City since being hired to replace Rod Barnes in March.

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&#8220This has been good,” said the Louisville, Miss., native. &#8220The Ole Miss fans are passionate about their basketball and I like to get their input on where they think the program is and I’m giving them thoughts on where I want us to be.

&#8220We’ve had a very productive month and I have had a lot of time to interact with the guys.”

Kennedy has had a pair of Barnes’ recruits transfer and had three others – Brandon Patterson, Mike Smith and Marquis Young – quit the team. He signed junior college forward Kenny Williams, forward Andy Ogide from Georgia and guard Rodney Jones from Peabody, La.

With 12 men on the current roster, Kennedy has an open scholarship available, but is not sure if he will use it this season or wait until next season. The NCAA maximum is 13 scholarship players.

Kennedy takes over a program that has undergone four straight losing seasons. Barnes guided the team to the NCAA Tournament in 2001, but the team has slipped since then.

Although this will be Kennedy’s first official college head coaching position, he guided the Cincinnati Bearcats to a 21-13 record in 2005-06 amidst a mountain of turmoil within the program. Coach Bob Huggins was forced out after a drunk driving charge leaving the door open for Kennedy.

&#8220I got experience as a head coach and dealt with so much adversity when I was up there that hopefully that experience will prepare me for what’s ahead,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy was a high school All-American while in Louisville. He attended North Carolina State and played under the late Jim Valvano. He transferred to Alabama-Birmingham, where he still holds several school records.

His time in Oxford so far has been hectic.

&#8220It’s been nonstop really since last August,” he said. &#8220But we are getting a feel for what we are working with and are ready to go.”