At South Carolina, Holloway was conflicted. He knew he had done what he had to do. He knew he made the right decision for his family. He knew they needed him. But his heart was still in Mississippi.
He longed for his teammates and kept up with them throughout the season, and when his season ended, things were looking up for his family. His mother was doing much better and his daughter’s mom had graduated high school, meaning she could now take care of their daughter full time. Holloway began to ask himself what he was still doing in South Carolina.
“After those two situations resolved themselves I kind of asked myself ‘What am I doing here?’ I came for one reason and one reason only and that problem was now fixed,” he says. “That’s when I realized I wanted to transfer back to Ole Miss. I told Coach Horn (the then head coach at SC) and he called Coach Kennedy for me and asked if they would have me back, and Coach Kennedy said yes, so then I started to get all the paper work ready so I could go back.”
So not only did Holloway hold no resentment toward Kennedy for not releasing him from his scholarship, but Holloway still had such an affinity for him, the school and his teammates there that he decided to transfer back. Not many people would have been willing to make that decision, but then again not many people are wired like Murphy Holloway.
Upon deciding to transfer back to Oxford for his junior season, he prepared his petition to the NCAA to play right away. He documented his reasons for transferring to and from South Carolina, his family situation, who would be taking care of his daughter, and his path to graduate from Ole Miss. Despite never dealing with a situation like this before, the NCAA granted him immediate eligibility.
The team started the year 10-4, but finished the regular season 17-13 and made another trip to the NIT. Despite being talented, the Rebels were dogged by off-the-court issues last year. In January, Kennedy kicked leading scorer Dundrecous Nelson off the team for being arrested for possession of marijuana, and also kicked reserve guard Jamal Jones off the team.
Then there was the eligibility of the troubled Jelan Kendrick. Kendrick transferred to Ole Miss in December of 2010 after being kicked off the Memphis Tigers’ basketball team before ever playing a game. Kennedy decided to take a chance on him. It ultimately didn’t pay off. He was late to shootarounds, confronted teammates, and was even engaged in a post-game brawl with teammate Reginald Buckner after a home loss to Vanderbilt. He was ultimately suspended later on in the season before being let go in the offseason.
All of those events essentially sabotaged Ole Miss’ season. Holloway and fellow seniors Reginald Buckner and Nick Williams would have one last chance to take the Rebels to the NCAAs, but they needed help, and that help has come in the form of Marshall Henderson. Despite their recent track record of dealing with players who had character issues, Kennedy decided to roll the dice on the dynamic Henderson. Henderson bounced around from Utah to Texas Tech to junior college and now to Ole Miss. His red flags were there, but so far haven’t shown up in Oxford as he has provided a huge spark to the Rebels (while irritating others with his emotional demeanor and somewhat excessive celebrations).
“He has made a huge impact on the team,” Holloway says. “It has helped me and Reginald a lot because teams used to be able to double down in the post, but now you can’t help off Marshall cause he’s such a good shooter and scorer so it opens up things down low. I love having him on my team. He’s a great player, a very emotional player and he really gets us fired up. Not everyone in the SEC likes him but I love having him on my team.”
With Henderson in the fold, the team is off to a 15-2 start, including a 4-0 start in conference play. Kennedy is trying to temper expectations by saying the team still has a long way to go, but the excitement in Oxford is palpable. The team knocked off then No. 10 Missouri last Saturday by 15, and sold out their second-consecutive home game this past Saturday. Ole Miss beat writer Hugh Kellenberger joked on Twitter: “There’s a scalper looking to BUY tickets at an OLE MISS basketball game. What is happening here?”
With a down year in the SEC, things are starting to fall into place for this team. They have a dynamite scorer in Marshall Henderson, a calming influence at point guard in Jarvis Summers, and then there’s Holloway. He’s big, physical and level-headed. He knows what it is like to fall short of your goals.
Now, he’s just enjoying the ride. With the end in sight, Holloway is glad he gets one last go around to make his mark, and hopefully lead his team to the Big Dance.
How far will Ole Miss go this season?
Follow Daniel on Twitter at @dgm591.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.