The 2021-22 college basketball season is finally upon Rebel fans, and fresh off his four year contract extension, Kermit Davis will seek to return Ole Miss to the NCAA Tournament.
The odds are seemingly stacked against his veteran squad as the Rebels are ranked ninth in the SEC in preseason polls.
The uphill battle, however, is not against preseason polls but against style of play. The Rebs were tied for last in the SEC in three pointers made last season at 5.2 per game, which led its 237th ranked offense to 68.8 points per game. Typically for a college team, the target number is 80 points for a win on most nights. Despite the putrid numbers on offense, the Rebs placed themselves on the NCAA bubble with the 29th ranked defense, only surrendering 63.6 points per contest.
The old mantra, “Defense wins championships” must be plastered on the walls inside Coach Davis’ office as he seems to have zero cares about scoring the ball. With the departure of Devontae Shuler, the best perimeter shooters are freshman who have never done it on this stage. It is one thing to emphasize defense, it is another to ignore offense in an era of pace and space basketball.
All that aside, let’s take a look who is returning this season:
- Oxford native Jarkel Joiner returns for his senior season as the lead guard in the Rebel backcourt. Joiner will have to pick up where Devontae Shuler left off, and his penchant for scoring in bunches is going to be majorly put to the test. If he is not our number one scorer, there will be a lot of pressure for someone, anyone to step up and fill the scoreboard.
- Austin Crowley has played nearly 60 games as a Rebel entering his junior season though he has yet to find consistent play offensively as he averaged less than three points per game in each of his first two seasons.
- Sophomore Matthew Murrell came to Oxford as a very highly ranked recruit, but he had an uneven freshman campaign coming off the bench, playing in every game and averaging a little more than four points per game. His shooting percentage from the field has to improve (32.3 percent last year) for his stock to rise.
- Do everything guard/forward Luis Rodriguez is the most consistent player returning for this year. He started every game last season, led the team in steals, and seemed to gain more confidence late in the season most likely due to his previous season being cut short with an injury.
- Robert Allen transferred to Ole Miss from Samford for a senior season, and he has returned for a COVID-extended senior season. While he has shown some flashes, he will have more competition than ever for minutes this season.
- Junior Sammy Hunter is a little big of an enigma as he has never seemed to fully realize his potential. The Cup heard a lot of excitement around his name when he first arrived on campus, but he has not seemed to have that breakthrough just yet. Again, a lot of new competition for the bigs might see Sammy on the outs with this staff.
The Rebel roster has seen a lot of turnover and influx of new talent via high school players and transfer portal additions. Here’s a quick look at the new faces you can expect to see when the season tips off:
- Eric Van Der Heijden is a freshman forward standing at 6’8” who averaged a double double his senior year, and he will be absolutely needed from a depth standpoint given the sketchy returning bigs previous production.
- Jackson native Daeshun Ruffin fills the role loved by Ole Miss basketball as an undersized but athletic do everything guard. He is the first McDonald’s All-American signee in school history and No. 1 player in Mississippi out of high school (avg. 33 ppg senior season) - this kid has a lot to live up to in terms of meeting expectations. He could very well be the sixth man, difference maker this team needs.
- Nysier Brooks comes to Ole Miss transferring from Miami and also played at Cincinnati. The seven foot center adds desperately needed size in the post, but he also has 130 games of D-1 experience to boot.
- Duke transfer Jaemyn Brakefield left Mississippi for Coach K’s Blue Devils and has now made a heralded return to the Magnolia state. A five star prospect out of high school, he found more and more success at Duke as the season progressed and should figure to be a force for the Rebels this season.
- James White may not immediately see the court as a freshman guard out of Georgia, but he was a fairly proficient scorer at the 6A level of Atlanta suburb basketball.
- Tennessee product Grant Slatten was runner up for Mr. Basketball in 3A, and he scored more than 2,700 points in his high school career. It’s hard to project if Slatten would be like a microwave bench player who can come in and make some quick baskets, but he did score 59 points in one game in his senior season so there’s that!
- Tye Fagan may be a name you recognize, because he spent the last three years at Georgia. Last season, he scored 19 to lead the Dawgs against the Rebels in the Pavilion, so if he’s comfortable taking shots in our arena, it’s great he transferred here. Fans have to expect some kind of senior leadership from the Georgia native.
First up for the Rebels is New Orleans on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. from the SJB Pavilion. Ole Miss overcame D-II program Trevecca in its only exhibition game, 83-76, last Friday.
So what’s your feeling for this upcoming basketball season? Which newcomer do you see coming through and surprising fans? Comment below or tweet @redcuprebellion with your shooty-hoops opinions.