Three Observations from Coach Kermit Davis’ Press Conference
OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis held a press conference earlier this week to talk about the 2021 signees as well as changes to the Rebels’ basketball program for the upcoming year. With seven new players heading to Oxford (three transfers and four high school signees), there was a lot to discuss. Coach Davis took questions about the new players, the roles of returning players, the impact of the transfer portal and the potential for inter-conference transferring.
Here are some of Coach Davis’ comments on his team:
On transfer Jaemyn Brakefield
“We feel great about the two guys from Mississippi. Jaemyn was one of the first guys I called when I got the job here… Just happy he’s back and we love him as a player — and his talent. Great guy. Great family. Jackson has been good to Ole Miss basketball in years past.”
“I think Jaemyn, when you watch him play, he has a great skillset. Jaemyn play-makes. He can rebound and advance the ball up the floor. I think he can be a high 30s three-point shooter, hecan really pass it. He stretches you at that spot. He’ll be a tough matchup for anybody, just because of what he can do at all three levels. Finishes with his right almost better than he does his left. Great versatility.”
On transfer Nysier Brooks
“He started almost 60 games at our level. (He played for) Cincinnati, Miami. He’s a shot blocker. 7ft (tall). He could be as athletic as any five-man in college basketball. You know we played against him at Cincinnati. We saw him first-hand and loved him then. We got a chance to see him a lot on last year’s films.”
On transfer Tye Fagan
“This is the second time we’ve tried this. We’ve gotten him twice now; he signed with us at Middle Tennessee, but then went to Georgia. He started 25 of 26 games and played great against us. He is really versatile and has a chance to improve his three-point shooting. He is a really good rebounder and has a chance to help us early in a really big way.”
On signee Eric van der Hejiden
“We really like Eric, the kid we got from Raleigh. You know, (he) won a state championship. (He’s) 6-8 with a 7-2 wingspan. Really skilled. We think Eric is going to be a very good player.”
On signee Daeshun Ruffin
“We think Daeshun is going to have an immediate impact on our team. You make the McDonald’s All-American game and while it doesn’t guarantee success, you know you’re valued as one of the top 24 players in the country. He’s competitive and won a state championship. I think he may be the most electrifying scorer in the class. He will have a great, great chance to make an early impact at Ole Miss.”
On signee Grant Slatten
“I’ve watched Grant grow up for a long time. He is a 6-foot-5 guard that is extremely athletic and is one of the best shooters in this ’21 class. His dad, Bruce, has been considered one of the best high school coaches in Tennessee for many years.”
On signee James White:
“James has a really great skill level as a long, athletic guard that is one of the very best scorers in the state of Georgia. He loves ball, enjoys being in in they gym and was first team all-state this year. James has an unbelievable support system around him.”
On returnee Matthew Murrell
“I think Matt has had a really good spring. I think Matt is going to take a huge jump. The one thing that stands out about Matt, he wants to be coached. He’s not afraid to be coached. Great support system at home.”
*Interesting note on Murrell: When discussing Murrell’s progress, Kermit mentioned Tre Mann at Florida, along with Terence Davis and Breein Tyree, in terms of players who dramatically improved from their first year to the next. Mann went from averaging 5.3 points per game as a freshman to 16.0 as a sophomore. Big things are ahead for Matthew Murrell.
On returnee Sammy Hunter
“He was a big part of us beating Kentucky at home. His confidence level is a lot better. He is really excited about the summer. He is going to stay here all May and is going to work out on his own and lift on his own. In his third year, he is another guy who can stretch the floor. His confidence is better and he can be a big factor for us.”
On returnee Luis Rodriquez
“Luis is not real tall but adds versatility for next year. He’ll play a little different next year offensively… I think Luis has made a big jump (outside shooting). Think he can make a jump like TD did (from one year to the next).”
No. 1 – Finding the Right Mix
Coach Kermit offered his thoughts of the transfer portal, noting how it is just a part of today’s college basketball world. He believes while all programs have to adapt to the portal, it is still important to have a good mix of both high school kids and transfers.
“You’re going to see changing rosters in college basketball. You’ve seen it already this year. Everybody’s trying to stay old but you still have to get good high school players and develop them.“
In a time where it is so easy to get caught up trying to get the best players on the market, Coach Kermit has remained disciplined in finding the right players and the right mix to make it all work. He explained how the Rebels will have eight high school athletes on the roster and five transfers (Jarkel Joiner, Robert Allen, Jaemyn Brakefield, Tye Fagan, and Nysier Brooks).
It’s apparent that even though he wants to get talented guys, Davis wants to create a culture for players to stretch from year to year. He alluded to this earlier when discussing a potential jump for a player like Matthew Murrell. He mentioned the importance of character for the construction of his roster.
No. 2 – Be Ready for All Kinds of Versatility
It was a running theme throughout his press conference that the roster is being constructed to have many guys playing many roles. This seemed quite noticeable when he discussed the front court. Coach Davis took note of how players at the four and the five may be more willing to step out and stretch the field and how that may impact the offense. He discussed how the skillsets of Luis Rodriquez, Jaemyn Brakefield, Eric van der Hejiden and Sammy Hunter may be used.
To further illustrate his point, Coach Davis mentioned the unique skillset of Jaemyn Brakefield and his ability to get a rebound and take it up the court. The Rebs’ head coach had already stated his desire for the team to run more and to get more shots and notch more possessions. It could be very possible we see guys like Brakefield and van der Hejiden have a more open role with the ball and from the perimeter than the Rebels’ forwards in recent years.
No. 3 – Goodbye, Shooting Woes
After a frustrating season from beyond the arc, it appears Coach Kermit believes the 2021-22 team is going to be much improved from three-point land. Coach Davis fielded questions on the subject, mentioning many players and their ability to shoot the ball.
He also noted that Murrell had shot it well, how Brakefield could shoot in the high 30s from deep, Sammy’s ability to stretch, and how much Luis is improving. Coach also mentioned how he believes the young players can be good shooters, specifically commenting on Ruffin and both the duo of Slatten and White. Last season Ole Miss was 311th in-three point shooting percentage (30.04%), but Coach Davis certainly believes that with improved spacing — thanks to some key new additions — the offense will have a new identity in the upcoming season.
Khadim Sy’s plans
A question was asked at the end of the press conference about whether Khadim Sy might return to the team after announcing he was entering the transfer portal — and, if so, how that would affect scholarship numbers. Coach Davis said if Sy returned, he would not affect the Rebels’ current scholarship numbers. Sy will graduate soon, so he would be a graduate transfer with immediately eligibility at another school. Davis says while the staff has had a few conversations about Sy potentially returning, nothing definitive has been decided.
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.