OXFORD, Miss. — It’s August, and football is right around the corner. But before you know it, Ole Miss Men’s basketball will be back in the Pavilion on November 8 to face the Arkansas State Red Wolves in the season opener.
Following a 20-13 record last year, Kermit Davis is in his second season as the Rebels’ head coach, and there is an exciting sense of optimism about the upcoming year. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s preseason projection has the Rebels as a No. 10 seed. Despite many new players, Ole Miss looks to earn its second consecutive berth into the NCAA Tournament–which would be the first time this happened since 2002.
Non-Conference Game to Watch: Nov. 23 vs. Memphis
On November 23, the Rebels will travel to face the Memphis Tigers in the FedEx Forum. The Ole Miss football team has a bye, so I would expect many Rebel fans to make the quick trip to Memphis.
This is a very exciting matchup for the Rebels as the Tigers will be led by former Memphis and All-NBA player Penny Hardaway, who possesses the top-rated class and player in James Wiseman. Wiseman is also the top-rated player for the 2020 NBA draft in way-too-early projections.
This will be a definite challenge and should be a good indicator of how the Rebels will fare in SEC play. Since the Tigers are projected in the preseason Top 15, they are predicted to win; however, that does not mean the Rebels can’t emerge victorious. The Tigers are loaded with NBA talent, but you better believe Kermit Davis and the players will be ready to play.
Three Keys for Another Ole Miss NCAA Berth
1. Superior Guard Play
Last year, Devontae Shuler, Breein Tyree, and Terence Davis led the Rebels at the guard positions. That was the strength of the team as those three accounted for 43.4 points per game on a team that had minimal inside presence. They had to take tough shots all year long but consistently hit big shots and made winning plays on the defensive end.
Tyree has been working on his ball handling skills this summer and could pose more of a threat off the dribble. Shuler was hindered by a foot injury halfway through last season, shortening his minutes and versatility. Last year, Tyree was selected as first term All-SEC and has been selected as preseason first team All-SEC for this upcoming year. I would not be shocked if Shuler elevates his game even more without Davis and earns an All-SEC mention, himself.
The Rebels will miss the talent of Davis, who has signed a two-year contract with the Toronto Raptors. However, Tyree and Shuler will be a staple for the Rebels and could be part of the best backcourt in the SEC.
Here’s a video of Tyree’s improved ball handling skills:
2. Depth and Role Play
|Projected Starters||Projected Bench|
|G: Devontae Shuler - Jr.||G: Franco Miller - R.Fr.|
|G: Breein Tyree - Sr.||G: Austin Crowley - Fr.|
|G: Blake Hinson - So.||G: Luis Rodriguez - So.|
|F: K.J. Buffen - So.||F: Sammy Hunter - Fr.|
|F: Khadim Sy - Jr.||F: Carlos Curry- R. Fr.|
Unlike last year, depth will not be an issue. It will be interesting, however, to see how the Rebels gel with many new faces. The core of Shuler, Tyree, Blake Hinson, and K.J. Buffen will still be intact, as each of these players averaged 20+ minutes per game.
Austin Crowley and Sammy Hunter are two talented freshmen who are expected to have an impact off the bench. It will be important for these two to compete and provide a burst of energy for the team.
Crowley is a 6’6″ guard who provides size and versatility on the offensive and defensive sides. Coaches have praised the toughness, skillset, and court awareness he displays. Crowley will be a nice addition off the bench and will complement Tyree and Shuler’s game when one of them needs a quick rest.
Hunter is 6’9” forward who will be utilized in a thin Rebel frontcourt. The Bahamian was also the MVP at the Signature All-Canadian Showcase, which was won the year before by former Duke All-American and New York Knicks forward, R.J. Barrett. That is not a bad company to be a part of when you share a title with the third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Terence Davis, Bruce Stevens, and DC Davis have exhausted eligibility, and Dominik Olejniczak has transferred to Florida State. With Stevens and Olejniczak gone, there was a glaring hole at the center position once the season ended.
3. A “Dream” Come True
Different ride 🚴🏼♂️ but same destination 📍 pic.twitter.com/vQczg4Kbas
— khadim sy (@khadimsy1) July 17, 2019
4-star Khadim “Dream” Sy will fill the void at center and will start immediately for the Rebels. The 6’10” forward was the third-rated JUCO player overall from Daytona State College after he started his career at Virginia Tech.
Sy averaged 16.8 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game last season at Daytona State. In the 2018-2019 season, the Rebels were 12th in the SEC in team rebounding, so look for Sy to contribute and provide help immediately.
Having a big man like Sy can and will create better floor spacing for All-SEC caliber guards like Tyree and Shuler. This can allow them to drive to the lane and create plays on the offensive end, such as easy layups or open threes if the defense crashes on the drive. It can also force an opponent’s big man to guard Sy on the perimeter and allow for offensive rebounds for the Rebels.
Quick note: Shuler and Sy played high school basketball at Oak Hill together.
What to Watch For in the Future
Kermit Davis has been actively recruiting players in the 6’5” to 6’7” range the past two years. Players like this include: Blake Hinson, KJ Buffen, Luis Rodriguez, Austin Crowley, and Antavion Collum.
Each can guard the 1-4 on a given possession. Now, I am not saying Buffen can guard a point guard on each and every possession, but he can step out on a pick and roll by hedging ball screens and creating discomfort for the guard. My point is that they are all big and athletic enough to guard multiple positions.
Having players of this caliber and size can allow for constant switching on defense. It can also create mismatches on offense because a 6’7” Rebel player could post up on a smaller guard but then stretch the floor with a three point shot. They can also fake the shot and blow past a bigger forward but still take jump shots over smaller players.
Look for Kermit Davis to keep recruiting these types of players to complement quick, speedy point guards like Devontae Shuler and Franco Miller Jr. and tall, athletic centers like Khadim Sy and Carlos Curry. Hopefully, Jaemyn Brakefield is the next to fit this mold, but we’ll have to wait and see.
A New Man on Campus
After murmurs all summer, 6-10″, 210-pound PF Shon Robinson has officially reclassified and will be eligible to play for the Rebels this upcoming season. The Arizona native was rated the No. 159 player in the nation in the 2020 class. Like Sy, this big man has an outside jumper, the ability to dribble, and can play defense.
After reclassifying, Robinson spoke with 247Sports and commented on his future. “Coach Kermit just told me he’s going to put me in. He’s going to let me play. I’m going to get down there and work hard. Overall, I’m just going to be a different type of player.” The plan for Robinson will most likely be to redshirt since he is a late addition to the team.
To assign to a different class or category.
Make That Move🚦 pic.twitter.com/iMgVoUCAr9
— shon robinson (@shon12_) August 21, 2019
So, get ready for the 2019-20 season, Rebel fans! It’s going to be exciting.