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Kendrick continues transition at Ole Miss

Phillip Waller/The Daily Mississippian

While exams were finishing up and students began going home for winter break, the Ole Miss men’s basketball team was preparing for the long-awaited debut from freshman transfer guard Jelan Kendrick.

After enrolling at the University of Memphis out of Wheeler High School in Atlanta, Kendrick decided to transfer after his first semester and ultimately decided to attend Ole Miss. In doing so, Kendrick became the first McDonald’s All-American in Ole Miss basketball history.

Kendrick enrolled last January and began taking classes and practicing with the team. Due to NCAA transfer rules, however, Kendrick was not allowed to play in a game until the end of the 2011 fall semester.

“It was a difficult experience just to see your teammates, who are also your family, to come out and play hard and sometimes come up a little short,” Kendrick said. ”It’s hard to know you could of possibly made a difference, but I got through it.”

While Kendrick was excited to be able to play again, he said the experience was a great learning tool. He finally made his debut Dec. 17 against Southern Miss and scored his points in a Rebel uniform on Dec. 21 against Middle Tennessee State.

“I was very relieved to be able to suit up and be out there, but it was a great experience being on the sideline and being able to see what coaches see and just the first-hand experience from a visual standpoint,” Kendrick said.

“I was seeing some things that the coaches see during a game that you may not see when you are on the floor. To see that on the sideline is amazing. To be on the floor and helping the team to a victory or to just know that you were out there giving it your all win or lose is a great thing that I am excited about doing again.”

Kendrick said he feels like he is still getting back into the swing of things after not playing in any meaningful games in almost two years.

“There is defiantly a learning curve,” he said. “I think I am still kind of getting back into the swing of things after almost two years of not playing organized basketball and coming straight into the fire of Southeastern Conference play. I didn’t get any warm-up games or anything like that, so I think I am on a constant learning curve and continue to learn new things to help make me a better player and help the team out.”

Kendrick was a highly decorated player coming out of high school, being ranked the No. 8 player in the nation on Rivals.com and the No. 15 player in the nation on Scout.com. He also played in both the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic. Kendrick said he is honored for all the recognition, but they don’t give them any more wins or help the team reach its goals.

“I don’t personally look at it as any added pressure, but humans put pressure on you to and hold you to a certain standard,” Kendrick said. “I think my job here is to help the team win in any way possible. That is what I came here to achieve.

“I feel honored to be the first McDonald’s All-American to be here, but I want to be a part of the team that wins a SEC Championship. And I want to be a part of the first team that coach Kennedy has that goes to NCAA Tournament. Those are the goals that I want to achieve in the near future. I have achieved some great goals in the past, and I am very proud of them because those will be things that I can tell my children, but it is onto the next one and right now that is win an SEC Championship and go forward from there.”

While NCAA transfer rules denied Kendrick from playing in any games until December, nothing could keep Kendrick from being one of Ole Miss athletics’ most followed athletes on Twitter. Kendrick said he loves the ability to talk to fans and get to know people that watch him play better and maybe get a look into each other’s lives.

“It is a great experience, especially for me,” Kendrick said. “I am from the Southside of Atlanta, so a lot of people don’t get the notoriety that I get and a lot of people don’t embrace it. But I definitely embrace it because I could be in a position where nobody knows me in the world. I love getting a response for almost everything I have to say and being able to keep in contact with the fans in seeing what they have to say rather it be about games, personal life or even what pair of shoes you are going to wear tomorrow. To be able to reach out to the fans that way, it is just great to be able to interact with them.”