Ole Miss basketball coach Kermit Davis has turned over more than half of the roster entering his first season at the helm. The attrition was partly upgrades in younger talent, but the graduation of Deandre Burnett and Markel Crawford leaves a void of experience in the backcourt.
Burnett left Ole Miss with more than 90 games at the Division-1 level, most of which he played as a point guard with the Rebels. He also averaged nearly 30 minutes per game the last two seasons, scoring more than 13 points per game.
Crawford, a Memphis Tigers transfer, came to Oxford after three seasons of 20 or more games played with UM and immediately averaged more than 30 minutes a game last for Ole Miss. While his 9.2 points per game didn’t lead the team, he was a fairly sure ballhandler and known veteran quantity. He also led the team in steals with 38 last season.
So who will step up in the absence of Crawford and Burnett this season and replace their minutes and points?
Shooting guard Breein Tyree
Tyree, a 6’2, 195-pound junior, started 46 games for Ole Miss in his first two years in Oxford, increasing his points per game from 7.3 as a freshman to 10.8 as a sophomore. He really hit his stride over the final six games of last season, pouring in 16.5 points per game (all against SEC competition, no less).
It looks like Tyree is going to be the Day 1 shooting guard starter for the Rebels, and he’ll undoubtedly have more opportunities than the previous two seasons.
I absolutely love this kid’s ability to create on the drive, his athleticism around the rim given his size, and how he plays against good competition. Last season, he put up 24 points against Auburn, 17 against Georgia and another 17 (plus eight rebounds) against Virginia.
Tyree will have more eyes on him than ever as a leader on the team, and his ability to defend seems to be the only thing that will potentially keep him off the court. He notched 22 steals and nine blocks last season, which more than matches Burnett’s effort last season (19 steals and ZERO blocks), so his progression could more than cover the loss of Burnett’s contributions.
Point guard Devontae Shuler
The SEC is about to be introduced to Shuler in his sophomore season. He will most likely be the starting point guard to begin the season, and his somewhat limited play last year projects him as a difference maker.
Shuler saw around 19 minutes per game last year but did fairly well in the time he had on the hardwood. Six points and three rebounds per game doesn’t sound like much, but he was second on the team in overall steals with 32—only a handful behind Crawford, who played 12 more minutes per game.
Coach Davis has praised Shuler’s defensive ability in the pre-season and seemingly awarded him the starting job because of it. How Shuler adapts in the 1-3-1 defense typical of Davis’ teams will separate him from the rest of the backcourt line-up.
Backcourt by committee
Newcomers Brian Halums, Franco Miller Jr., and Luis Rodriguez along with veteran D.C. Davis will offer back-up options for Coach Davis.
Miller most likely won’t be 100 percent until December after a knee surgery earlier this year. Rodriguez is also coming off a knee scope that could see him playing limited minutes until a month or so into the season. I can’t fathom projecting more than 8-10 minutes per game for either of these players until we see how they’re moving.
Halums and D.C. just need to be serviceable this season off the bench. It’s very likely Tyree and Shuler will have to play more minutes than they’ve been tasked with in the past and more than likely 30 minutes or more per game. It’s just a question of talent, consistency and experience at this level.
So the Rebel backcourt is in somewhat good hands replacing Burnett and Crawford with two more than capable guards, but we have yet to see how these players will hold up with this workload for a grueling 30-plus game season. How they progress in a new coach’s system and produce given the opportunity will dictate much of how this team meets or exceeds expectations this season.