Kermit Davis enters his third season as the head coach of Ole Miss basketball in 2020 and has set himself up for success with a roster-defining spring that was capped off with a massive transfer commitment from former four-star recruit and Arizona State standout power forward Romello White.
Davis’ success at Middle Tennessee State came with his ability to replace talent in the offseason with immediate impact transfers from players that fit his high-speed transition system. As he has shown at Ole Miss, his offense runs opponents off the court and gets shots up, but he knows when to slow it down and move the ball until an open look presents itself. A big factor into success under Davis is the ability to force a turnover or a miss on the defensive end, which requires strength and length— something the Rebels had on a lesser scale in 2018-19 and lacked entirely in 2019-20.
At 6-foot-8, 235 pounds, White will presumably fill that role and step into the starting-five on day one. With his signing, Davis presumably has filled his roster and the offseason player acquisitions are complete. He will join a rotation that sits 10 players deep.
As basketball has evolved, the game has moved away from traditional point guard through center positions and plays more toward systems and schemes. This allows a lot of versatility and movement within the 10-man roster.
There is a lot that will shake out over the course of the next four months and into the preseason, but Ole Miss finds itself in a position of finding space for talent, as opposed to finding talent for space. It is the first time since Davis took over the team that he will have a roster deep enough and talented enough to do what he wants to do on both ends of the court.
Let’s take a look at how the roster finished up and how the lineup may look in November:
The Starting Five
Oxford-native Jarkel Joiner returned home to Ole Miss in 2019, but had to sit out a season due to NCAA transfer rules. In his sophomore season with Cal State Bakersfield, the 6-foot-1, 177 pound guard led the team in scoring with 15.6 points per game and shot 45 percent from the field in 32.2 minutes played. Before his stint out west, Joiner ranked fourth in the nation in scoring with 36.5 points per game at Oxford High School.
He is a high-flying, rim-rattling scorer who will lead the pace and beat opponents down the court. Nobody is stopping him in transition and if an opponent sees Joiner coming, he better get out of the way or he will be put on a poster.
When he isn’t rising above the rim and slamming one down, Joiner can knock down an open look from the elbow and gets his hands dirty with an average of 3.5 rebounds per game as a Roadrunner. If opponents treat him as a one-dimensional scorer, they will soon look silly when he hits a jumper in their faces or draws the defense and finds a wide-open man for an easy bucket.
Davis has acquired a human cheat code that should have been a Rebel in the first place and plays perfectly in his system. Joiner can play at the arc when the opposition has the ball, wait on the rebound and start the break. When one of the Rebel big men get the ball in their hands, Joiner can turn up-court and blow by the opponent in transition. Terence Davis did this well in 2018/19 to lead the Rebels and Joiner adds even more speed to that role.
It has been said before, and it will be said again right now. The former Oak Hill Academy guard from Irmo, S.C. is poised for a breakout season. He returns to Oxford as a senior and brings his shifty, steal-happy Shuler style back for one last ride.
Reel | @Devontae_Shuler— Ole Miss Men’s Basketball (@OleMissMBB) May 8, 2020
- 1 of 2 players in the @SEC with at least 1.7 steals per game and a 1.7 assist/turnover ratio (5th in both categories)
- 5 20-point games
- Already ranked 10th in program history with 142 steals
BACK for his senior season in 2020-21‼️ #HottyToddy pic.twitter.com/1wYplaN8UP
Shuler received a lot of criticism for his play in 2019/20 and was undeniably frustrating with his shot selection and inability to play the secondary role to Breein Tyree at times. However, he still hit 42.4 percent of his shots and 35.5 percent from beyond the arc last year. He recorded a career-high in rebounds, nearly matched his steal total from 2018/19 and averaged one point more per game. While his production didn’t reach expectation, he showed growth. Though he was inconsistent, he showed growth.
It is now Shuler’s final chance to step into the limelight. He may not sit first chair next to Joiner or some of the other talent on the roster, but he should step up as the team’s best on-ball defender and create chaos on both ends. Chaos thrives in Davis’ system and plays to Shuler’s skillset well. Steals lead to fast breaks and his spot-up shooting gives the opposition fits if they shift focus to other Rebels and leave open looks for Shuler.
Vaughn was the first domino to fall in Davis’ transfer portal haul. As one scout put it, “he’s a strong, athletic wing who is a motherfucker.”
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound hit 39.3 percent of his three-point attempts last season and can finish at the rim. He can do it all on offense and should be fun to watch in Davis’ system that just goes. If the fast break start with Joiner out in front, he could take it to the rim and kick it to Vaughn in the corner for the triple, or Vaughn could be the trail and clean up any mess.
Vaughn has a legitimate shot at taking on a starting role in his first and only season as a Rebel and brings it on the defensive end as well. He averaged six rebounds a game from 2017 to 2020 and will provide help to the an Ole Miss team that struggled in that area last season.
His commitment cannot be overstated and his value could prove to be the thing that takes the Rebels from good to great.
No matter the system, White will shine. He is a proven forward on the highest level of competition with Arizona State and plays bigger than 6-foot-8 as a (much needed) vicious rebounder and interior scorer. He runs the floor with the best of them and could become a superstar in Oxford.
Senegal-native senior Sy is penciled in as the big man. He stands 6-foot-10 and is entering his second year at Ole Miss. In 2019/20, the former Virginia Tech forward scored on more than 50 percent of his attempts and showed moments of real elite-level talent. He took advantage of mismatches as often as he could and was always looking to catch a body.
Sy was not the best rebounder on the court, but he will fit well alongside some of the fresh faces. His long, lean, nimble frame moves quickly down the court and plays well in Davis’ system when the guards find him underneath and he drives to the rack.
Hinson was inconsistent a year ago, but when he’s on, he’s really on.
If he can keep level and play to his full abilities, he’s going to be a force in the 2, 3 or 4-spot.
Incoming guard Murrell is the highest-rated recruit in Ole Miss history, really came into his own as a senior at the IMG Academy and is listed as the No. 9 shooting guard in the country. He’s a great two-way guard that has confidence with his jumper and can roll over anyone in his path on the way to the rim if he must.
He could very well win himself a starting spot, but don’t be surprised if he takes a year to develop as a quality role player with significant, strong minutes off the bench.
Best of the Rest
KJ Buffen, Austin Crowley, Shon Robinson, Luis Rodriguez
Buffen has played big minutes in key games before, but has never taken hold of his moment to shine. He averaged 10.1 points per game in 2019/20 and could grow into the team’s top guy off the beach.
Crowley, Robinson and Rodriguez were each four-star recruits out of high school and have either been hindered by injury or never saw quality minutes. All three could grow into serious role players if given the chance.
Point guard: Devontae Shuler
The senior facilitator.
Shooting guard: Matthew Murrell
Strength and speed.
Small forward: Blake Hinson
He could earn the role with system experience and offseason growth.
Power forward: Romello White
He is too talented to sit more than a few minutes per game.
Center: Khadim Sy
He’s the guy down low until he’s not.
Point guard: Jarkel Joiner
His two years at Ole Miss should be a blast. Here’s another highlight just for fun.
Jumping out the gym.
Shooting guard: Devontae Shuler
What’s that? Oh, nothing. Shuler just hit another three on the run.
Small forward: Matt Murrell
Playing up, getting up, putting it down.
Power forward: Dimencio Vaughn
Flying in to clean it up.
Center: Romello White
Dump it off to the trail for a hammer.
The Big Bodies
Point guard: Matt Murrell / Jarkel Joiner
Every lineup needs a primary ball handler.
Shooting guard: Blake Hinson
Playing the role of transition runner.
Small forward: Romello White
He can cover a guard or lock down a center.
Power forward: Khadim Sy
Floating paint defender.
Center: Shon Robinson
Firm size on the baseline.