The Ole Miss Hoops Handbook: Moussa Cisse
OXFORD, Miss. — Welcome, to a special in-season edition of the Ole Miss Hoops Handboook. On Tuesday night, Moussa Cisse was cleared by the NCAA to be eligible to compete in the 2023-2024 season. With that, we have another write up to deliver to you all, as Cisse could make his season debut Saturday against Memphis.
Cisse was one of two Ole Miss players who were waiting on decisions from the NCAA as they continue their process in evaluating two-time undergraduate transfers. Brandon Murray is still waiting to hear back regarding his.
If you haven’t had the chance to read any of the other articles or are looking to see how a player compares now to his preseason write-up you can click the link to view those articles here.
Editor’s note: This “Ole Miss Hoops Handbook” series is set to help the Ole Miss community get familiar with these players and help build excitement for the upcoming season. Every day, The Rebel Walk will highlight an individual player to break down his game and describe what you can look forward to and where we can look for more growth this season.
Each player’s breakdown consists of notes from both the summer scouting and re-watch of film this fall. On top of watching game film, I formed an analysis along with a statistical breakdown from several different sources. I have watched multiple games for each player to help give an accurate picture of their game. In an effort to give a more comprehensive view, I tried to watch one game where a player had larger success statistically and one where his impact may have been overlooked by the box score.
Let’s take a look at today’s focus player: Moussa Cisse
Cisse Prior to Ole Miss
Originally from Guinea, Moussa Cisse moved to the United States in 2015. In high school Cisse spent time playing at three different prep/high schools. Starting at St. Benedict’s Prep, then moving to Christ the King school in New York before finishing at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, Moussa Cisse was graded as a five-star recruit and one of the top centers in the 2021 class. However, Cisse would reclassify to join the 2020 class, maintaining a top-10 overall ranking and his five star status before committing to Memphis.
Starting as a freshman for Penny Hardaway’s Tigers, Cisse earned 2020-2021 American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year honors and an AAC All-Freshman team nod. After his lone season at Memphis, Cisse decided to test the NBA Draft waters while also entering the transfer portal.
After deciding to return to college, Cisse landed at Oklahoma State to play under Mike Boynton Jr. Spending the last two years in Stillwater, Cisse started 46 of 52 games while showing small signs of improvement earning two All-Big XII defensive teams and a 2021-2022 Co-Defensive Player of the Year award alongside Baylor’s Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and West Virginia’s Gabe Osabuohien.
Cisse would enter the transfer portal for a second time ultimately deciding to join Chris Beard and Ole Miss.
In three years of college basketball, Cisse has career averages of 6.9 PTS, 7.0 REB, and 1.8 BLKS.
Notable 2022-2023 games:
11/18/2022 vs UCF: 14 PTS, 14 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 6 BLKS, 6-9 FG
2/1/2023 vs Oklahoma: 18 PTS, 5 REB, 1 AST, 8-10 FG
Before getting into the pros and strengths, I wanted to highlight a couple of physical changes over time. Coming out of high school, Cisse was listed at 6’10, 220 lbs. At Oklahoma State he was listed at 7’1 and 215 lbs. Now, Ole Miss lists him at 7′ tall and 230 lbs. It’s normal for players to grow a couple inches in college. The weight change is interesting to see how he plays 15 lbs heavier and how that affects the physical part of his game.
Starting with the area of the game that most fans are probably excited about: rim protection. There was an added emphasis from Chris Beard as he built this team to be able to defend the paint and force teams further from the basket. This was highlighted in their recent win over NC State, where the Wolfpack shot 3-25 from deep and five of their first six shots were threes. Now, Ole Miss is set to add another shot blocker into the mix with Cisse.
In his three years of college basketball to date, Cisse has led every conference he’s played in for total blocks on the season. Further, he led the AAC once and the Big XII twice. Cisse possesses a career 10.4 BLK%. Athletically, Cisse possesses a quick vertical pop that allows him to rise up in a hurry. Pair that with a high basketball IQ, awareness around the basket and a 7-foot-5 wingspan and we can see where he can anchor a defense.
Ole Miss fans will be excited to see him on that end. He is very communicative and active with his hands, He reads the game well, constantly saying what he sees. He normally played in drop coverage at Oklahoma State for a stout defensive team there. Cisse makes smart reads onto whether to press up on ball handlers or sit back. He really excels at recovering on roll men and getting back. He loves the weakside shot blocking opportunities to sink down with an attacking player and be ready to come in for the opportunity.
The weakness (or rather room for improvement) is that he needs to be better disciplined in biting on shot fakes. This could lead to some unnecessary fouls or easy opportunities. Another area is when players with good touch are in the mid post area. He sometimes sinks down to go block, leaving bigs available in that 10-15 ft range.
Cisse grades out as a plus defender at the position. More than just the shot blocking as well, the past two seasons he held roll men to less than 30% from the field. This past season, he held his own in all isolation to 25% from the field. He does a really good job of getting low and moving laterally for a guy his size. He also held his own on some faceup attempts from smaller forwards who like to turn and get downhill. An area to monitor this year will be how he does on post-ups. Playing at a heavier weight, will he be able to keep his position better and stonewall some bigs more.
Before switching over to the offensive side of the ball, we have to discuss how Cisse can rebound the basketball defensively. Ole Miss has struggled to win the rebounding battle in a few matchups this year and Cisse excels in this category. He looks to box out frequently and can rise up to locate and high point the basketball. Last season, he was fifth in the Big XII in defensive rebounds despite playing only 22.6 minutes per game. His 28.1 defensive rebound percentage was first in the conference and top ten nationally. His ability to clean up the boards could provide Ole Miss an opportunity to improve their defense by eliminating second chance opportunities.
Offensively, Cisse reminds be a bit of what Jamarion Sharp did at Western Kentucky. With a limited offensive game overall, he still can really finish around the rim and seems to be working on growing aspects on that side of the ball. At Oklahoma State, Cisse really tried to establish good position, especially when the ball was being swung where he looked to dig in nearly underneath the basket trying to set up the post feed. His true 7-foot size and length makes him an ideal target for lobs and post feeds. Has a large catch radius.
Cisse had 49 post possessions last season. Oklahoma State used him there a lot more than Memphis did during his freshman season where he logged 24 post possessions. He shot 55% from both blocks last year. He possesses a limited post arsenal.
Cisse really stands out as a potential roll man and someone who can sit in the dunker spot as he tries to finish plays off with dunks. He plays through physicality and can still finish above the rim. Cisse registered 147 dunks over the past three seasons and had 55 this past year. Could improve his efficiency at putbacks and layups. One can tell through looking at various years that he is working at trying to gain softer hands and getting better touch around the basket.
Cisse showed notable growth as a roll man over his career. Early in his career, Cisse was primarily a screener but now has developed an effective ability to slip screens and finish lobs with dunks or easy layups off this. He also gained some pick and pop opportunities. Cisse had 18 jump shots attempts last season where he made 9 of those attempts. His sophomore year, Cisse only took five. Similar to Sharp and Marshall this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if he took a few attempts this year as well. He shows good shot mechanics on free throws but touch continues to be a problem. He is a career 43% FT shooter.
An area of growth for Cisse over his collegiate career is in turnovers. Cisse has decreased his turnovers each year in college and this past season had 37 turnovers in 722 minutes played. The year prior he had 38 in 581 minutes played. Last year, teams would double Cisse in the post. Okahoma State also ran a two-big system frequently with Kalib Boone making it easy for guys to be doubled. Cisse was effective at passing out of double teams and even able to find opposite skips for wide open jumpers. He was largely used for dribble hand off opportunities out near the perimeter last year. He struggled sometimes when the look wasn’t there to find another pass.
Cisse plays the game hard, and provides a lot of energy on the court. He is best used in shorter spurts of around five-to-seven minutes. When he stays in longer, he can become winded and doesn’t provide the same level of intensity on the court. Oklahoma State was smart at giving him breathers to bring out the highest defensive energy on the court. Expect Ole Miss to do something similar.
Overall, Ole Miss is adding a high-motor big who can rim run and effectively finish plays above the rim. Defensively, Cisse is an anchor on that end and provides Ole Miss with a second rim protecting presence that should lead Ole Miss to near the top of the nation in rim protection.
A plus athlete, Cisse can get out in transition and has the lateral quickness to be a more versatile switch piece in their defense than the current bigs. A player with a big basketball IQ on the defensive end, Cisse immediately becomes an important piece for this group. He should help the rebounding on the defensive end and can make some momentum-swinging plays with either dunks or rejections on the other end. With his presence, Cisse will help Ole Miss continue to force teams to take more shots on the perimeter.
TJ Oxley is the Vice President of Operations and the Director of Community Relations for The Rebel Walk. He is also the Director of Basketball Content and Senior Basketball Writer. 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.