Aaron Jones and Demarco Cox the Keys For Ole Miss’ SeasonPosted by Greg Mitchell on November 29th, 2013
Andy Kennedy finally found himself in the NCAA Tournament last season after years of wrong-side-of-the-bubble torture at Ole Miss. Winning the SEC tournament had taken some of the drama out of the moment, but the Rebels built on that by beating Wisconsin in the second round. If Kennedy guides the Rebels back to the Dance this season it’ll be because one or more of his frontcourt players emerges as a consistent source of rebounding and rim protection. Demarco Cox and Aaron Jones have looked the part in spurts thus far, and they, not Marshall Henderson, are therefore the keys to Ole Miss’ season.
The Rebels have the pieces on the perimeter to play with most teams in the country. Henderson doesn’t need a lengthy explanation. He’ll infuriate other teams with jersey pops and landsharking, and probablyequally frusttrate Kennedy with his shot selection at times. But he’ll score, and score a lot. Jarvis Summers is one of the best distributors in the conference, and has a superb 33 percent assist rate so far. Derrick Millinghaus is another high-volume shooter, but has shown he can score at a high level too.
The spotlight falls on Jones and Cox to at least partially make up for the losses of Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway. Jones’ minutes per game have increased by 12, and against lower competition he’s increased his production, doubling his per-game rebounding average by over four per game. Cox could be a unique piece for Kennedy. He missed most of last season with a foot injury, but at 6’8′” and 276 pounds he has heft in the low post that most teams can’t match. He’s not overly skilled on the block, but over the last two games he has scored 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting. At this point in his career it’s not likely he becomes a double-team waiting to happen, which would be heaven for Henderson. But he presents an option for Kennedy. Cox has also posted a 22.6 percent defensive rebounding rate, which is even more important.
Before the season freshman Sebastian Saiz got mentioned as the player most likely to shore up Ole Miss’ frontcourt. He’s struggled on offense (31% FG) but has been solid rebounding the basketball. Saiz could certainly develop into a primary frontcourt contributor, but so far it has been the elder forwards who have carried Ole Miss down low. They haven’t been spectacular, but they don’t need to be. Jones and Cox need to merely embrace the “garbage man” roles that Kennedy needs from them and let the guards play up to their potential. If they do that, Kennedy may be sweating yet again on Selection Sunday, but this time in a good way.