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TJ’s Takeaways: Ole Miss Hoops Recap From the Bahamas Basketball Federation’s Summer of Thunder Series

TJ’s Takeaways: Ole Miss Hoops Recap From the Bahamas Basketball Federation’s Summer of Thunder Series

OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss basketball recently wrapped up a foreign tour in the Bahamas. For those who are unaware, the NCAA allows teams to take one foreign tour in the summer, once every four years. Teams this year are going all over the world to different continents.

For Kermit Davis and his staff, this could not have come at a better time as the Rebels now have eight new additions to the roster who were not with the team a year ago, as well as two new staff members who have joined the team.

The Bahamas Basketball Federation is hosting the Summer of Thunder, 2022 series, and Ole Miss was a part of the first group of teams playing in the event.

Other big programs including Kentucky, Ohio State, and NC State will be making their way to Nassau for later stages of the series.

Ole Miss was joined by other colleges and teams in the first grouping, including Eastern Kentucky and South Alabama. Ole Miss finished their part of the tour winning all of three of the Rebels’ games, finishing 3-0.

  • Win – Ole Miss vs Bahamas Select Team (89-71)
  • Win – Ole Miss vs Discount Distributor Rockets (88-70)
  • Win – Ole Miss vs Raw Talent Elite (121-75)

The Rebs were without four of their players due to injury as they headed into this trip. Daeshun Ruffin and Robert Allen are still recovering from injuries suffered last season, while newcomers Robert Cowherd (torn meniscus) and Josh Mballa (knee sprain) were not available to play in the event as well.

Both Cowherd and Mballa are expected to be healthy before official practices begin.

These games gave coaches and fans the opportunity to see a lot of the new faces to this Ole Miss team, as well as the ability to see progress from players on last year’s team. It also allows the Rebels to get a quick trip in to begin forming a bond with one other.

A lot of times teams participate in other activities on these tour to enhance their experience. We know that Ole Miss got a day to enjoy the weather and ride jet skis.

My perspective on the games

Before looking at takeaways from these three games, it is important to note that one had to watch with the right expectations. This is a group of guys who have not seen each other for very long, and it was the first taste of game action against opposition that are not themselves.

The series wasn’t supposed to be flawless; teams will be rusty, there will be some natural communication errors, and there will be defensive lapses.

Ole Miss didn’t always finish when it had numbers in transition; they occasionally made poor passes or shot selections. A lot of these are expected and the good news is that they are correctable. It’s like watching game one of the season compared to game four, five, or six. There will be much improvement on these correctable things as players get into the flow of the season.

My perspective when watching — and then re-watching — these games was to see what kind of principle and identity this team brings, what progressions have the veterans made, and to understand a little bit more of how the new guys look and fit in.

Takeaway No. 1: James White Can Score and in a Variety of Ways

In an article last year, I noted James White did not lack confidence. I can tell you the sophomore really showed this and is priming to make a major leap heading into year two.

Last season, White averaged 2.2 PPG and saw his minutes begin to increase in mid-February of last season. During that stretch, he showed flashes of mid-range shot creation and microwave level scoring. White certainly looked the part of a volume scorer in Nassau. He ended up leading the team in scoring, averaging 23.7 PPG over the three games on a blistering 64% shooting from the field.

The big takeaway isn’t just that he was scoring, but rather the ways he was finding to score the ball. His bread-and-butter will be that ability he has to navigate to his spot in the mid-range and pull-up over a defender and he certainly will be able to do that this season.

To me, White showing the ability to attack the basket in the half-court, finishing in transition while slicing in-between two defenders, and to score off movement shooting are the real draws to buying the breakout.

Those looking at a box-score may take time to point out that White was 0-3 from deep, but rest assured that he took plenty of long two’s that provide more than enough to show he can shoot from deep. (See Clips Below)

In the game against the Discount Distributor Rockets, I have compiled three different clips that show three different ways White scored in the Bahamas outside of transition finishes in the paint and his mid-range creation.

Here we will take a look at each case. Special thanks to Tenth Year Seniors for providing the stream to the game.

Case No. 1

Case No. 1 shows us some BLOB action (Base Line Out of Bounds). This play highlights White’s aforementioned ability to turn and get set coming off a screen for a quick opportunity. Ole Miss ran action like this in the past.

The second highlight shows that the shot is taken well into the corner. If this were the old college three-point line used up until 2019, this would be a three.

Case No. 2

Here is another opportunity to see a deep two from White. This time it comes off a screen from Theo Akwuba. Showing a good read of the defense, White chooses to elevate for a long two here.

Notice White turning his shooting hips towards the basket. As a right-handed shooter dribbling to his right, White has to make a larger turn to get that right hip aligned with the basket. It’s fundamental for a shooter but helps him get set to fire off the shot on target.

The other point reiterating from Case No. 1 is how deep of a two this is. James has the potential to be a plus perimeter shooter.

Case No. 3

Here is a basic catch-and-shoot in transition, a simple play that doesn’t need a ton of explanation — further adding that White can score off-ball as well.

Taking these three into context (as well as the shot creation, transition finishing, and ability to attack the basket), it highlights that James White is a versatile scorer in this offense. Buy into this hype. In fact, James White has the potential to be a major X-factor in the Ole Miss offense for years to come.

One of the reasons to be excited about this team is a question I raised myself when watching this series — When was the last time Ole Miss featured multiple players who could be movement shooters while also having potentially three (or more) players who can create their own shot on the court?

Takeaway No. 2 – Ole Miss Will Look to Play Fast

Earlier on in this article, I mentioned finding principles the team play with. One of the ones I found was the emphasis on running in transition.

This has been something that Kermit Davis has been trying to get his teams to do. I know two years ago they slowed things down, but last season the emphasis on the transition play went up. Here, this team is looking to get out and go as often as they possibly can.

Looking at the roster, you can see that the personnel fits a faster style of play. With a new-look roster, we see guys who fit this mold more.

Amaree Abram is a guy who loves to get downhill and push, James White could get a rebound and start his own break, and Malique Ewin and Jaemyn Brakefield can bring the ball up the court with their guard skills as forwards/bigs. TJ Caldwell can apply pressure, and Matthew Murrell can bring it up.

Last year Ole Miss had issues with ball handlers as the injuries piled up, but this team shows a lot of skilled handlers who can put the ball on the floor if needed.

Whether it was off a steal, a block, a defensive rebound, or even a made shot, Ole Miss made it a priority to play fast and put pressure on the defense by moving the ball up the court quickly.

Looking at the team statistics from the weekend, Ole Miss averaged 21.3 points per game based on fast break points alone.

That mark is over three times the amount of fast break points it gave up to its competitors this series as they allowed only 7.0 per game. That number may seem fair given the competition level, but considering Ole Miss turned the ball over 17.3 times per game and their opponents were only slightly higher at 18.3 shows a willingness to start breaks.

This can be attributed to a couple of things. The first is pressure on defense. Ken Pomeroy once said that, “A good offense is a quick offense.” Taking that to the next step is to say that an active defense leads to quick and easy points.

With all of the defensive accolades and athleticism that Kermit Davis brought in with the transfers, I expected Ole Miss to crank things up a notch with their defense. The amount of times the Rebs’ defense led to offense was also impressive.

Through the three games in the Bahamas, Ole Miss averaged 23.0 points per game off of turnovers. This can be attributed to players having active hands, jumping passing lanes, and rejecting shots. All these create the opportunity to run, and Ole Miss was quick on the draw with their outlet passes.

Takeaway No. 3 – Understanding the Praise for Jayveous McKinnis

Kermit Davis let it be known that Jayveous McKinnis had turned some heads early on in the summer. This made the Jackson State transfer’s debut on the trip all the more fascinating. It didn’t take long to understand what Kermit Davis saw in the 6’7 forward.

For the three games, McKinnis averaged 12..7 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game. It wasn’t just a great statistical performance for McKinnis, but rather the skills and mindset he brings to the floor that leaves a mark.

At Jackson State, McKinnis was a three time SWAC Defensive Player of the Year award winner as well as being a terror on the boards. His nonstop motor on the glass was impressive and his energy will surely be used to wear down opponents over the course of a game.

His ability to rise up and display great help side instincts made McKinnis a good weak side shot blocker during this series. There is going to be a learning curve for McKinnis as he adjusts to playing a new position. Kermit Davis says he is “trying to get Jayveous to play like a small forward and a power forward… that he’s has to guard 6-7.. 6-8 guys in the SEC, non-conference that can go off the dribble.” 

When you watch McKinnis play, the things that standout physically about him raises eyebrows. He can leap really well, always has a knack to get his hands on the ball, can screen, goes up as a lob threat, and establishes position well.

It’s going to be really fun to see how he adapts to a new style and new challenges. Ole Miss has players like Malique Ewin and Jaemyn Brakefield who can defend the five at times but also have skills along the perimeter, and those would be players you want to put on the court alongside him.

This would allow McKinnis to maintain an interior presence on the inside, while also allowing him to continue to play to his strengths (creating second chances, tipping the ball around, and wearing down opposing bigs) while not sacrificing much in terms of spacing.

What’s Next?

Season tickets for the 2022-23 season are on sale now. Dates, times and TV assignments for both the non-conference and SEC seasons will be announced at a later date.

(Feature image credit of James White courtesy of Ole Miss Men’s Basketball)

TJ Oxley
TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley is a current MBA student at Ole Miss after having earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Toledo. He currently covers college hoops and the NBA Draft for the Basketball Society as well as all things Ole Miss for The Rebel Walk.

About The Author

TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley is a current MBA student at Ole Miss after having earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Toledo. He currently covers college hoops and the NBA Draft for the Basketball Society as well as all things Ole Miss for The Rebel Walk.

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