Emergence of Sebastian Saiz gives Ole Miss Rebels offensive flexibility
In the last two seasons, Sebastian Saiz was more of a role post player for the Ole Miss men’s basketball team, taking a backseat to guards Marshall Henderson (2013-2014) and Stefan Moody (2014-2015) and allowing them to take deep jumpers. Now, Saiz is the one of the focal points of this year’s offensive attack for the Rebels.
In Monday night’s matchup against a younger, smaller Georgia Southern team, Saiz asserted himself in the paint, making the rim look the size of the Atlantic Ocean with his turnaround jump shots and soft-touching hook shots that barely touched the net.
Saiz played 31 minutes for the Rebels, finishing with 24 points, 17 rebounds, three blocks, a steal, and an assist in the 82-72 win over the Eagles. He was very efficient from the floor, going 8-for-14, and he also made his presence known from the free throw line, going 8-for-11.
In the team’s season-opening win over Northwestern State, Saiz had 16 points and 14 rebounds. For his career, Saiz has now recorded three doubles-doubles, but more could be on the horizon because of his eagerness to take advantage of each opportunity that comes his way.
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy knew what type of “big” he had on the roster, knew what style of play Saiz was capable of showcasing, but it wasn’t up to Kennedy to make things happen. It was up to Saiz, who came into this season at 242-pounds—10 pounds heavier from a season ago.
So what’s next for the 6-foot-9 junior forward? He plans to keep improving in all phases of the game.
“I worked on everything in the offseason, from hooks to guarding to the basket, drilling, shooting,” said Saiz, who became the first Rebel since Murphy Holloway to record a double-double in two straight games.”
I can shoot three’s now, but I haven’t made one yet. Now, I can make them, I promise.
Junior forward Sebastian Saiz
Saiz knew this moment was coming once Ole Miss lost forwards M.J. Rhett and Aaron Jones to graduation and center Dwight Coleby in a transfer to the University of Kansas. Saiz kept himself in the gym in the offseason, making sure he would be up to speed, physically and mentally, whenever Kennedy called on his jersey number to make big plays on both ends of the court.
As a sophomore last season, Saiz averaged 7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. This season, in only two games, Saiz is averaging 20 points and 15.5 rebounds per game. Saiz’s quick emergence as a scoring threat for Ole Miss outside of Moody, who’s averaging a team-leading 25.5 points per game, comes as a shock to some people.
But not to Kennedy, who saw special assets in Saiz long before now.
Saiz is the best guy, as it relates to block-to-block, back to the basket presence that we have had in my time here. We are going to play through Saiz inside because he has been efficient.
Head Coach Andy Kennedy on Sebastian Saiz
The Rebels (2-0) will need for Saiz to continue his offensive efficiency with the Gildan Charleston Classic coming up, where Ole Miss will begin the holiday tournament against George Mason on Thursday and will play the winner of Oklahoma State-Towson on Friday.
Kennedy has to yet to figure out what the identity of the Rebels will be this season, but Saiz might have the answer to Kennedy’s question before Southeastern Conference action begins in January.
Monday night, Saiz missed six shots that Kennedy felt he should have made over smaller defenders and Saiz realized his mistakes. As good as he has been playing, Saiz is determined to continue to get better.
“You have to improve,” Saiz said. “We played a Sun Belt team, but this is not the SEC. What I did today may not work against the SEC teams. So, you just have to get better.”
Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.