Ole Miss hit the practice floor and officially began its 2018-19 season on Monday, marking the beginning of the Kermit Davis era.
The Rebels return five players with significant game experience – Breein Tyree, Terence Davis, Dominik Olejnizak, Bruce Stevens and Devontae Shuler, meaning there are a host of newcomers and some returners with little to no experience playing in the SEC.
“You come into the SEC, which is a great conference, it’s the best the league has ever been top to bottom in the history of the league which is great for all of us,” Kermit Davis said. “Where you find yourself with five guys who have played in the SEC, that’s not a big number out of 13.”
The team’s leading scorer, Terence Davis, returns for his senior season and Kermit Davis is looking to mold his senior small forward from a freakish, gifted athlete that is often erratically inconsistent, to a reliable scorer and defender that can be counted on on both ends of the floor. Davis has shown flashes of brilliance in three years, but will need to prove he can play within a scheme defensively and be a more consistent scorer.
“He’s got to become a guy that just doesn’t rely on athletic ability to make plays,” Kermit Davis said. “He’s got to be an elite defender, not a guy that steals the ball just because he’s faster than the other guy. But can he play within a defensive scheme and have a defensive concept and be a guy that can follow a scouting report and play with detail defensively? Now you get a guy who is that athletic and has a good motor, who really can start playing with more detail and he has really improved in that area.”
Kermit Davis challenged Terence this offseason and vowed to coach him hard. He wants to see how Terence Davis responds to it.
“He’s had some good moments in Oxford these last three years, but I think that’s the biggest thing, can he be an elite defender and if he does it will really set the tone for the rest of our team?,” Kermit Davis said. “ I’ve told TD, it’s obvious, my biggest calling point will be can you coach your very best players the hardest, and if you can’t you have no team. It’s a nightmare if you’re trying to fight your best players everyday with attitude and effort.”
Ole Miss has had a couple freshmen get injured, which has chipped into the team’s depth a bit. Franco Miller had surgery last weekend to repair a fractured knee cap and will be out at least three. Forward Luis Rodriguez bumped knees with Bruce Stevens last week and tore his meniscus. He too will be out 3-to-5 weeks.
What does that mean for the team’s depth? D.C. Davis — who is now on scholarship — as well as Blake Hinson and K.J. Buffen (both played heavy minutes on the team’s trip to Canada) will be relied on more and shuffled around a bit.
“That puts D.C. Davis (up there), who played well in the last game in Canada, who’s very athletic, as athletic as anybody on the team, great wingspan, strong,” Kermit Davis said. “He’s a guy that’s going to have to play minutes the entire year for us. We’re moving KJ Buffen sometimes to the three where Blake Hinson can also move sometimes there with Franco (Miller Jr.) and Luis (Rodriguez) out.”
Kermit Davis also mentioned it could mean that Stevens and Olejniczak could see more time on the floor together at the four and five positions, something that did not happen much last year despite both playing significant minutes. Stevens said he has dropped ten pound and has made it a point to get in better shape than a year ago. Stevens is a gifted scorer at the forward position, but like Terence Davis, will need to prove he can be a more consistent defender.
The team’s best defender last year was Devontae Shuler. Kermit Davis brought a different brand of basketball with him from Middle Tennessee State, one that puts more of an emphasis on the defensive end of the floor. Shuler will be invaluable weapon the perimeter in Davis’ defensive scheme.
“He’s built for us,” Kermit Davis said.”He’s very competitive and has a great motor. He doesn’t flinch at being coached. He can be a really elite defender in our league. We’re trying to get him to really run a team. Not dribble it, but to run the team and he’s made strides with that.”
Ole Miss opens its season on November 10 against Western Michigan.