Mississippi begins rebuild under new coach Kermit Davis
Mississippi begins a basketball season with a new head coach for the first time in 12 years.
And it seems Kermit Davis has a lot of work to do.
Ole Miss was picked to finish last in the Southeastern Conference this season in a poll by media members, which isn’t a particularly big surprise considering the Rebels had a disappointing 12-20 record last season. That led to the resignation of longtime coach Andy Kennedy, who was replaced by Davis.
Ole Miss does return a decent amount of last year’s production, including senior guard Terence Davis. He led the Rebels with 13.8 points per game last season.
The 6-foot-4 Davis has always been a terrific athlete with a knack for scoring, but Davis wants him to be more of an impact player on both ends of the court.
“He’s got to become a guy that just doesn’t rely on athletic ability to make plays,” 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.”
Davis said he’s been focused on making sure Ole Miss builds toughness and moves on from last season’s rough ending. He said much of preseason practice has been used to eliminate bad habits and grind through possessions.
“We don’t go to next plays very well here, and that’s something we’ve got to really work on. Turnovers lead to a basket on the other end, bad body language, those are some of the things that we’re really emphasizing,” Davis said.
Here are some other things to know about Ole Miss this season:
SHULER’S SECOND YEAR
One of the more promising young players on the Ole Miss roster is Devontae Shuler. The sophomore guard six points per game last season and should be a big factor in the team’s backcourt this season.
“He’s very competitive and has a great motor,” Davis said. “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.”
THE DAVIS RESUME
Davis comes to Ole Miss after a successful 16-year stint at Middle Tennessee. He took the Blue Raiders to the NCAA Tournament in 2016 and 2017 and they won their first round game in both tournaments. He had a 332-188 record during his time at Middle Tennessee and won at least 24 games in six of the final seven seasons.
Davis was also an assistant at LSU from 1997 to 2002.
Ole Miss has a fairly manageable nonconference schedule, though early games against Butler and Baylor should provide a good test. The Rebels travel to face Middle Tennessee in Nashville on Dec. 21, which will pit Davis against the program that he coached for the previous 16 seasons.
Ole Miss and Davis have an intriguing project in 7-foot center Dominik Olejniczak. The junior had some good moments last season after transferring from Drake, averaging 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds while shooting 53 percent from the field.
Ole Miss will likely use several newcomers in the playing rotation, including freshmen Blake Hinson and K.J. Buffen. Both are 6-foot-7 forwards who will be counted on to provide immediate production.