One of the names Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis has frequently offered up when asked who has stood out throughout the offseason has been center Dominik Olejniczak.
The seven-foot Drake transfer from Torun, Poland struggled to find any form of consistency a season ago, averaging just 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds. Olejniczak struggled with the quickness and physicality of opposing post players in the SEC. He said he got stronger this offseason, forcing himself to eat more and working out. He believes the 17 pounds he’s gained since last season, putting him at 262 pounds, will better equip him to handle the rigors of playing center in the SEC this season.
“I am not going to jump over the guys,” Olejniczak said. “I play lower to the ground. By getting stronger I am able to hold my position against guys, get rebounds and be able to push guys on the low post. It will help my style of play.”
Kermit Davis’ system will see the Rebels use more of the shot clock in half court offense with the goal of getting one or both post players touches on each possession. This was evident in Ole Miss’ 101-52 exhibition win over Fayetteville State last Friday in which Olejniczak scored 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting with six rebounds an eight blocks.
“The big thing with Dom is technique, screening and rolling to the basket,” Davis said. “The biggest thing is the next play. Not letting one play, a ball going out of your hands, a missed three or four footer effect how your guard on the other end. I think he has done that.”
Olejniczak is still developing turning over his right shoulder for a left-handed jump hook. If he’s able to do that, his mark of 53 percent from the field should soar upwards toward the 72 percent line he posted his freshman year at Drake. Davis thinks Olejniczak has done better catching the basketball in the post, not lowering the ball into traffic in the lane.
“Those are the types of things he’s been working on,” Davis said. “From the exhibition the other night to the scrimmage against Murray State, I think he has put up some impressive numbers.”
This offensive philosophy will benefit the junior center more so than a year ago. Olejniczak would go long stretches without getting a touch in the post at times last year, something that can be frustrating and can also make it hard to stay engaged in a game on a possession-by-possession basis.
“I love it because I know the stuff I am doing — fighting with the guys down in the post — will be rewarded,” Olejniczak said. “I love how (Coach Davis) tells the guys in practice to look down low. “
“I would love to be the best defensive player on the team, but scoring keeps you going. It gives you more energy and stuff like that.”
Conversely, Davis has challenged Olejniczak to be a true rim protector and make opposing guards be hesitant with regards to driving to the basket, as well as guarding other centers.
“He’s asking me to protect the rim and be a great rebounder,” Olejniczak said. “He challenges me every day to rebound and defend.”
What will be interesting to watch is how much time Olejniczak and forward Bruce Stevens spend together on the court. The two provide size for the Rebels on the defensive end and Stevens’ ability to shoot the basketball on the offensive end stretches opposing defenses. The biggest determining factor will be Stevens’ ability to guard the four spot, something he struggled with last year. Stevens has lost weight and appears to be more mobile heading into the 2018 season.
“Bruce is a way better player than last year as far as guarding the four,” Olejniczak said. “That is really what was holding that match up last year. Bruce can really pass and shoot, so I have way more space underneath the basket.”
Ole Miss tips off its season Saturday at 3 P.M. in The Pavilion against Western Michigan.