By Gary Parrish
SOUTHAVEN, Miss. -- Ole Miss freshman Jelan Kendrick scored his first collegiate points late Wednesday.
They came in a 68-56 loss to Middle Tennessee State.
So that's not good.
But the reality is that Kendrick -- the former McDonald's All-American best known for being removed from the team at Memphis last year before ever playing a game -- looked surprisingly comfortable on the court in just his second game since becoming eligible. He played 29 minutes and mostly at point guard, which is something coach Andy Kennedy said he decided to try out of necessity.
"I'm just looking for somebody that doesn't throw it to the other team," Kennedy said. "I don't mean that flippantly, but that's the truth."
Here's some more truth: Kendrick's natural gifts were obvious against MTSU. He finished with eight points, three assists, three rebounds and four steals, and he turned the ball over just once. The 6-foot-7 playmaker operated under control, didn't force much and rarely hurt the Rebels on the defensive end of the court. More important, Kendrick finally provided a tangible reason to believe the possible reward of enrolling the talented but troubled prospect might out-weigh the obvious risks that've plagued his college career to date.
"If he can just do what Andy asks him to do all the time, he's gonna be a really good player," said MTSU coach Kermit Davis. "He's long and athletic, and I didn't think he settled for jumpshots. He kept trying to get to the rim. I thought he played well."