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October 30, 2008Chris Warren averaged 15.8 points per game as a true freshman, dishing out 4.5 assists per outing in the process.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy, however, wants more from the Rebels' 5-foot-10 point guard in his sophomore year.
"I'm not the only coach who has said this, but typically you see the greatest improvement between your first and second year," Kennedy said. "I really believe that. A lot of times, people don't think you are talking about players like Chris, who led us in scoring, broke all the freshmen records, was one of the leading freshman contributors in the country, and made 103 three-pointers that broke the Ole Miss record. They say, 'They must be talking about guys who don't play much. They can't be talking about this guy.'
"Chris is also in that category. He has made tremendous improvements in a couple of areas. Number one, mentally. He's much more confident about what he can accomplish than year one. He's much more sure of himself. He knows what is around the next corner, unlike freshmen who don't know what's behind door number two. Chris does now. He understands the demands that are going to be placed on him by his staff and the commitments that come with being consistently good at this level."
Warren is stronger than he was a year ago. He's quicker and more explosive. Most importantly, perhaps, Warren is louder.
"I'm probably a little bit more vocal in practice and I have been since the summer, trying to get guys to work harder," said the typically soft-spoken Warren. "I know the plays now, so I'm trying to get my team more involved, be more vocal and trying to better myself in other aspects."
"He's leading by example," Ole Miss guard Eniel Polynice said. "He's letting the other point guards know what to do in practice, helping them out with plays and he's stepping up and being a leader. That's what we're going to need on this team. We're going to need two or three guys to step up and be vocal leaders and Chris is doing that.
"He's talking a lot more. He didn't talk at all last year, so he's talking a lot more this year. We need guys to step up who have been here and have been through SEC games to lead. We have six guys who have never played SEC games before."
Ole Miss will entertain North Alabama in an exhibition game Friday at 4 p.m. The Rebels open the regular season on Nov. 14 against Arkansas State. Despite the influx of youth, the goal this season is simple: Make the NCAA tournament.
"I think we're going to get over that hump," Polynice said. "We have to stop thinking about it and stop talking about it and just put it in action and just do it. I think this is going to be the year that we do it and we're going to shock a lot of people."
So does Warren, and he plans to make sure his teammates believe the same, even if he has to forcefully guide them in that direction.
"We came up just short so we're going to work hard this year and hopefully everything will work out for the best," Warren said. "I believe we're better. We have more pieces. We're more talented. We have better athletes, so I think we're going to be pretty good."
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