November 11, 2008

Gaskins' injury puts Rebels in a fog

The plan called for a Friday afternoon practice, a bus trip to Birmingham and a Saturday practice/scrimmage against UAB.

Instead, Andy Kennedy caught himself delivering bad news Friday afternoon before the aforementioned workout and trip to Alabama's largest city. Sophomore guard Trevor Gaskins' MRI revealed a torn ACL in his left knee, meaning he was out for the entire season.

"There was a fog _ and really, honestly, it's not to be unexpected _ that settled on our team that we have still yet to shake," Kennedy said. "He's an emotional guy. You never have enough of those guys. He's a guy that brings emotion into your locker room, that brings emotion into your huddle and brings emotion to your practice. You lose that, and you lose an All-SEC freshman player. There's going to have to be some adjustments."

From all indications, those adjustments haven't been made just yet. Score couldn't be kept on Saturday at UAB, but Kennedy described the scrimmage with the Blazers as "an educational day, which was the point of the trip. We didn't play as well as I'd hoped in a number of areas. We learned some things as a staff about combinations we're comfortable with."

Last week, Kennedy said he was trying to find the right rotation, noting that he couldn't realistically play the seven players he had competing for three jobs. That number has now been reduced by one, and on Monday, Kennedy said Gaskins was likely No. 4 on the list behind Chris Warren, Eniel Polynice and David Heurtas.

"He could've even supplanted one of them," Kennedy said. "Trevor was really playing well. I beat it like a dead horse, but I always talk about that transition from Year One to Year Two but with Trevor, it was more emotional than it was physical. …For him it was just natural maturation and channeling his energies and all of those things that he was doing a great job for us. So it's a big blow."

With Gaskins out, it figures that sophomore Zach Graham will get more minutes and freshmen Will Bogan and Terrico White will have a bigger chance to break into the rotation.

Bogan has been guarding Warren each day, which is, Kennedy said, "a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that's as good as he'll face all year. That's also the downside because he's going through some issues as far as his downside and his assuredness with the ball. You want a point guard that has confident in what's going on, so it's a process for him. It'll end up being tremendously beneficial because of what he's going through every day."

White (hip flexor), meanwhile, missed a couple of days last week and is still working on the consistency that it takes to succeed at the SEC level, Kennedy said.

Gaskins will have surgery to repair the injury at some point in the next 7-10 days, Kennedy said. This season will serve as a redshirt. In the meantime, Ole Miss has but a few days to shake off the depression and get ready for Friday's 7 p.m. season opener against Arkansas State.

"We just have to stick together and focus and put our prayers together for Trevor," Polynice said. "Basically, we have to move on. We can't do anything about it. The only thing we can do is hope that he has the best surgery and that he rehabs real good and hope that he gets back for next season.

"It's going to put a load on us. We just have to continue to work hard and continue playing and fight through and take it one day a time. I think we'll be all right."

Ole Miss might not know a lot about Arkansas State, but Kennedy knows plenty about first-year coach John Brady, who took over the Red Wolves after a long stint at LSU.

"Even though we all go in blind that first game, he has a sense of Ole Miss and we have a sense of John Brady more so than Arkansas State," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he hasn't yet settled on Friday's starting lineup. Warren, Polynice, Huertas and sophomore Malcolm White will start, but the fifth spot remains open as Kennedy waits to see how his core of talented but inexperienced players settle in.

"When kids are confused, they're a step slow," Kennedy said. "As opposed to just coming out and playing open-gym, run-and-gun, when you're putting structure in, you can see the wheels grinding on some of these guys and they're thinking before they're playing. So it tells me I'm putting too much in and maybe we need to slow down and allow them to play to the instincts that got them into an SEC locker room."

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