December 6, 2007

UCF game returns Rebel players home

It's no mistake that the Rebel basketball team is headed to Orlando for its first road trip of the regular season.

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy scheduled the series this past summer, knowing he'd be giving some of his players a chance to get home.

The Rebels take on Central Florida at 6 p.m. Saturday.

"It's one of the reasons we schedule the game; we want them to go and play in front of their friends and family," Kennedy said.

Freshman guard Chris Warren is an Orlando native, and sophomore Eniel Polynice, senior Kenny Williams, sophomore David Huertas and freshman Kevin Cantinol all played high school basketball within a three-hour radius.

Warren, the SEC leader in assists per game (7.0), leads Ole Miss with 14.8 points per game.

Kennedy said Warren's been able to perform because of his work ethic and been able to keep a level head because of his personality.

"He's going to come out each and every day and give us maximum effort. I've never walked off the floor thinking he's given us anything less than 100 percent," Kennedy said. "I think he's pretty aware of what's going on. His personality is such where nothing rattles him and he keeps the same demeanor."

But even the levelheaded Warren acknowledges playing in front of a hometown crowd could be tough.

"It's nice. I'll be a little nervous playing in front of my high school fans, but it'll be fun," Warren said. "I'm glad that it's the first one away from home."

Williams said he and Polynice are competing to have the highest number of family and friends at the game. But even if Polynice brings more people, Williams said there will be one all-important Rebel fan in the seats.

"There'll be a lot of family members there," he said. "But the main thing is that I get to go see my daughter, and she can see me play for the first time since last year at Florida."

And as the game gets nearer, Kennedy knows it won't be easy for his players to go home.

"This game looked a lot better in the summer when we contracted it because of those things," he said. "There's going to be a lot of distractions. We're going to be very cognizant of it.

"Especially with these new guys who haven't experienced this before, we have to make sure their focus is where it needs to be."

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