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Thursday, May 31, 2012
Billy Kennedy focused on first SEC season


Billy Kennedy sounded great on the phone Wednesday from the SEC meetings in Florida.

His voice had energy and was clear.

Billy Kennedy
As the Aggies prepare for life in the SEC, Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy wants them to be more physical in their new league.

Kennedy attended his first SEC meeting as Texas A&M joined Missouri for their inaugural meeting in advance of officially joining the conference next season.

He said he's feeling much better. And it's obvious. Six months ago, he was slammed with a double diagnosis: the early stages of Parkinson's and exhaustion.

Kennedy took a leave from coaching in October/early November before returning to the sideline on Nov. 13.

The Aggies were riddled with injuries in his first season and finished a disappointing 4-14 in their final Big 12 season and 14-18 overall.

Khris Middleton declared for the NBA draft, and the Aggies will be rebuilding in Year 2.

Kennedy's job in the offseason is to prep rebuilding Texas A&M so it can create an identity in the new 14-team SEC.

And his plan is for the Aggies to be more physical. "We can be a physically imposing team defensively, like my teams at Murray State,'' said Kennedy. "I think we can do that. I want us to be physical like a football team.''

Missouri is ready to be a top-half SEC team with the addition of elite transfers and a solid returning core. Frank Haith's squad is loaded, regardless of league affiliation.

The Aggies can't be irrelevant early.

Kennedy isn't making promises. He said most of the perimeter players are new. So if the newcomers come through, the Aggies can be a pest in the SEC. They have five newcomers and four of the five play on the perimeter. The onus will be on rising senior Elston Turner, who is the top returning scorer. "We'll have new players and we'll have a transition, and we're in a new league,'' Kennedy said. "But we've got to get better right now. Hopefully, it equates to more wins.''

The Aggies are being paired with LSU as a traditional rival. And Kennedy said he anticipates a growing rivalry as the two schools are locked in to play each other twice every season. "There is a rivalry in football, and I think there can be one in basketball,'' Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he loved the atmosphere at the SEC meetings in Destin and called the league first class. "All the coaches get along well and they want to improve what is going on in basketball,'' said Kennedy.

But most importantly for Kennedy is that he is hitting the offseason feeling a 100 times better than he did when the season started.

He has a life-altering condition, but he at least can understand how to manage it going forward. "I'm the only one [who] would know if something is wrong, and I haven't had any issues,'' Kennedy said. "I'm working out every day. I know what to do. I'm doing exercises that are helping, and I'm doing well now.''