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OXFORD, Miss. – This year’s Ole Miss men’s basketball team will have many options from which to choose on offense. And while junior forward Justas Furmanavicius may not be asked to lead the team in scoring, he will be called upon to provide a different, yet equally important, skill set.
Point guard Cullen Neal described Furmanavicius’ role as “energy.”
“As you guys saw, he’s 6-6 or 6-7, solid and just runs around the floor and causes havoc the whole game. He always plays hard. I think energy is his big role.”
Cullen Neal on Justas Furmanavicius
Furmanavicius agreed with Neal. “I think my role will be rebounding, energy guy, play hard.”
In last Thursday’s exhibition game against Morehouse College, the Kaunas, Lithuania native started for the Rebels, finishing with six points, five rebounds, and one assist in 26 minutes of action. He connected on just one field goal but scored the rest of his points at the free throw line, going 4 for 4.
After Ole Miss’ 90-66 victory over the Maroon Tigers, Furmanavicius reflected on his own performance, looking at Division I Men’s Basketball as a different animal compared to what he had experienced at Three Rivers Community College. In his final season in junior college (2015-16), Furmanavicius averaged 12.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots in 16.8 minutes per game.
“It’s different,” Furmanavicius said about the speed of Division I basketball. “I played in JUCO for two years so I think it’s going to be a faster pace. The game is a bit more different, more physical.”
Furmanavicius has adjusted to his role of being the “energy” guy, but there still may be moments when he will be asked to carry the scoring load. The great thing about this year’s team is that head coach Andy Kennedy has a slew of options to which he can turn.
Neal, Deandre Burnett, Terence Davis, Rasheed Brooks, and Sebastian Saiz are some of the choices through which Kennedy could run some of his offensive sets. Another option, once completely healthy, could be freshman combo guard Breein Tyree, who’s coming off of a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered in his senior season of high school.
As for Furmanavicius, when he looks at the Rebels’ roster he is content with not having to be the number one scoring option every night Ole Miss hits the court.
“I think the team is better when more guys can score instead of it just being one guy scoring like 30 points and the other guys scoring just a little bit. I think it is better when a team has like five or six players who can score.”
Justas Furmanavicius on team scoring
Freshman forward Nate Morris didn’t play in Ole Miss’ exhibition game as he was dealing with a stinger, sort of a pinched nerve, in his shoulder blade. Kennedy said on Tuesday that he’s fine and has been practicing with the team.
“Hopefully, he’ll give us something, that, honestly, nobody on the team has given us, and that’s a rim protector and a guy that can get out-of-area rebounds,” Kennedy said. “I think that’s something this team’s going to need.”
The Rebels will open up their 2016-17 season inside The Pavilion this Friday night (6:00 p.m., SEC Network+) against UT-Martin.
(Feature image credit: Josh 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.