The announcement that ex-Memphis guard Jelan Kendrick has decided to transfer to Ole Miss was met with cautious optimism on Thursday among the Rebels faithful.
On the one hand, Kendrick will become the first McDonald's All-American ever to don an Ole Miss uniform when he becomes eligible in mid-December 2011. On the other hand, the versatile 6-foot-6 wing has a troubled history, having bounced between three high schools before getting dismissed from Memphis in the wake of a series of altercations with teammates and coaches.
To get a better idea whether adding Kendrick is a good gamble for Ole Miss, I spoke to Darron Rogers, who coached Kendrick as a junior at Westlake High School in Georgia. Rogers acknowledged Kendrick had some of the same "issues" at Westlake that he did at Memphis, but expressed hope that Mississippi might be a better fit for the talented freshman.
"My advice for the Ole Miss staff would be to stay close to him, get to know him personally and make sure he fully understands all of the different rules and regulations they have in that program," Rogers said. "They have to make sure he's paired with a teammate he's compatible with and they have to have an open-door policy with him so they can talk through whatever situations they may have."
Rogers did not go into detail about any of the problems Kendrick had that led him to transfer to Wheeler High for the 2009-10 school year despite leading Westlake to a 22-7 record as a junior. Asked how he would describe his experience with Kendrick, Rogers chose his words carefully.
"I would characterize it as a learning experience," he said. "I'd characterize it as somewhat positive. Any experience you have with an athlete of his caliber, you learn from it. You take from the good and you take from the bad."
The one thing about Kendrick that Rogers has no doubts about is his immense talent. Rogers said Kendrick lived up to his "Mr. Do It All" nickname, whether it was running the offense, shooting from the perimeter or scoring in the post.
"His versatility was unparalleled to any other player in the state at that time," Rogers said. "Jelan had a few issues with us but over the span of a couple years he's matured. Hopefully he's learned from the situation at Memphis and he'll go on to Ole Miss and do well."