Rebels Add Eric Van Der Heijden to ’21 Class
“You think about how you’re going to coach and what are you going to try to do to get basketball back? Three things that you really have to do every day: you’ve got to recruit well, schedule smart and coach intelligently.” – Head Coach Kermit Davis
Credit to those who know or remember this quote, but on a day like today I find it suitable. Coach Davis actually said these words on April 12th, 2002 at his introductory press conference in Murfreesboro when he accepted the job at Middle Tennessee. Here, almost twenty years later as Coach Davis could reflect on the 2020-2021 season he is already gearing up for next year.
The words ‘you’ve got to recruit well’ are mentioned first in Coach Davis’ list.
Since coming to Ole Miss, Davis has emphasized recruiting talented players to come to Oxford. Last year, he signed Matthew Murrell who was the highest-rated recruit in the program’s history.
That lasted all of one year, as the Ole Miss coaching staff went out and one-upped themselves by signing Daeshun Ruffin — who at one point was 15th in class. He now sits at 36th in the class of 2021.
Eric Van der Heijden
Finishing out his high school career at Millbrook High School in Raleigh, Eric Van Der Heijden was a former pledge to play for Chris Mack at the University of Louisville. After some careful reconsideration, he and fellow commit Bobby Pettiford decided to re-open their recruitment.
It took Coach Davis and company two days to convince the 6’9″ forward that Ole Miss would be the best place for him to grow and play.
New beginnings ❤️ pic.twitter.com/T3v91T9CFA
— Eric (@eric_vdh23) March 22, 2021
Van Der Heijden saw his recruitment soar over the past year-and-a-half as he began to grab the attention of many high major programs. Other teams involved in recruiting him prior to his Louisville pledge included Ole Miss, Clemson, Texas, Wake Forest, Providence, Iowa and many others.
As a junior Van Der Heijden impressed at Millbrook, averaging 14.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. At the time of his Louisville commitment, he was considered a four star prospect. Currently, he sits at 197th.
In his senior season, the forward saw his numbers jump up to 18.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. Eric’s brother Jake currently plays at Bucknell, and Eric benefitted from the pandemic by being able to train with someone in a college program.
After watching some film on his junior season, I can easily see the attraction major programs have for Van Der Heijden. Simply put, there aren’t many 6’9″ players who are as skilled offensively or can move with the fluidity he does.
He benefits himself the most out on the perimeter as a tweener combo-forward. With his length he can find his jumper over smaller defenders, and he has a good handle for a player of his size. Look for him to play the three, but he could be a stretch-four with the right lineup.
Louisville commit Eric van der Heijden’s got a flamethrower! 32 points in Millbrook’s (NC) Thursday win 🔴⚫️ #gocards @eric_vdh23 @MillbrookMBB pic.twitter.com/6dh9Y87OaJ
— Who's Next (@WhosNextHS) January 22, 2021
Van Der Heijden could be a huge help to an Ole Miss team that was 318th in the nation in outside shooting. He made 96 triples over the last two seasons at a 43% clip.
To further illustrate his shooting ability is the fact he shot 84% from the free throw line which is a good shooting indicator with which to measure players. He can instantly come in and be a floor spacer the Rebels have needed.
The best trait he may possess, however, is his passing. His length allows him to see over defenses, and he has the wherewithal to whip passes into lanes that others may hesitate on. In an article at highschoolOT.com, Van Der Heijden says:
“Since I am 6-foot-9, people do not think I have guard skills. My height allows me to see the whole court and as people watch my game more they will see my play-making ability.“
Eric Van Der Heijden
He plays a selfless game that can translate into helping any team by making the right plays in any given situation. On the defensive end, he makes solid team rotations and his length could fit right in with Coach Davis’ system, thanks to van der Heijden’s overall feel and potential versatility.
The 2021 that already featured the trio of Ruffin, James White and Grant Slatten grew bigger with the addition of van der Heijden to the fold. With him, Ole Miss now sits with the 29th-ranked class nationally and 4th in the SEC. These mark the highest rankings Coach Davis and company have achieved in his Ole Miss tenure.
TJ Oxley is the Director of Basketball Content and Senior Basketball Writer for The Rebel Walk. He has over five years of experience providing in-depth analysis of college basketball through multiple platforms. A former MBA graduate of Ole Miss, TJ started with The Rebel Walk in 2019.