OXFORD, Miss. – The question for this Ole Miss team all offseason has been how they will fare without All-SEC performer Sebastian Saiz.
Head Coach Andy Kennedy’s squad didn’t appear to miss a beat without Saiz in the Rebels’ exhibition against North Alabama, as they defeated the visiting Lions, 94-53.
Kennedy has three of his top five leading scorers returning, which include Deandre Burnett and Terence Davis, who earned preseason All-SEC second-team honors. The duo had 24 combined points in the win on 50 percent shooting.
However, freshman guard Devontae Shuler stole the show in the exhibition. Shuler put up impressive numbers in his Ole Miss debut, totaling 18 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals on 7-12 shooting.
Shuler graduated from Oak Hill Academy, which has produced NBA stars such as Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant.
“He’s gonna be something,” Kennedy said.
“He’s as talented as we’ve ever signed here. He can do it all.”
Head coach Andy Kennedy on Devontae Shuler
Another new addition who looked promising is Bruce Stevens. Stevens, a junior college transfer, was rated as the No. 6 JUCO prospect according to JUCOrecruiting.com. Stevens put up nine points and eight rebounds, along with three blocks and a steal.
“He can definitely shoot it,” Marcanvis Hymon said. “He can help us out as far as a stretch four where he can pick and pop and make those type of shots.”
Andy Kennedy has high hopes for Memphis transfer Markel Crawford this season. Crawford was productive in his first game as a Rebel, with nine points, three rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“I really think he needs to be our everything,” Kennedy said.
“He’s our best perimeter defender, and I like his ability to make decisions with the ball.”
Andy Kennedy on Markel Crawford
Dominik Olejniczak will be tasked with taking over the center position this year. The Drake transfer is the first 7-footer in the Andy Kennedy era at Ole Miss. He was forced to sit out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, but will be expected to play a big role for the Rebels this year.
“You have to remember that he hasn’t played in a long time,” Kennedy said. “It was important to get him time in this game.”
The skinny on the Rebels
Ole Miss was projected to finish 12th in the SEC this year by cbssports.com. This team has the talent along with the depth to shock a lot of people. Keep in mind, Ole Miss has had 11 straight winning seasons under Kennedy, who took over a program that had four straight losing seasons before his arrival. He is the only coach in SEC history to accomplish such a feat.
(Feature image credit:Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)