With a disappointing season winding down on the football field, head coach Andy Kennedy and the Rebel basketball team are nearing the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign. Kennedy has a mix of returning talent and new faces set to take on the SEC.
From last year’s team, the Rebels will return starters Deandre Burnett, Terence Davis, Justas Furmanavicius and Breein Tyree. Marcanvis Hymon, who had 24 starts a year ago, will also return and is projected to fill the departed Sebastian Saiz’s spot in the lineup.
Burnett, who had a big 2016/2017 season, is set to build on his productive first year in Oxford. After transferring from Miami, he led the Rebels in scoring and was top five in the SEC in free-throw percentage and 3-point efficiency. Now with a year under his belt, Burnett will look to become a leader of this team in addition to his on-court prowess.
Joining him in the backcourt is Breein Tyree, now at full strength after a torn ACL cut his freshman season short. As last season went on, the young point guard was able to run Kennedy’s offense effectively and efficiently before he was struck by injury. After coming out of nowhere to play a prominent role late in the season, a healthy Tyree could be a nightmare for opposing teams.
In addition to the returning Rebels, a few new faces will grace the court inside The Pavilion this season.
Coming from Memphis, graduate transfer Markel Crawford adds a scoring threat who shoots from the perimeter at a high percentage and led the Tigers with 42 3-point shots a season ago.
Trying to replace Saiz, who was one of only two Ole Miss players to top 1,000 rebounds, will come as a challenge. However, from the new additions come a few different options. Dominik Olejniczak and Karlis Silins are 7-footers who offer rim protection and a big-bodied presence in the middle of the paint, and transfer Bruce Stevens can help fill the gap.
Stevens, an All-American from Jones County Junior College, averaged a double-double a season ago while shooting more than 50 percent from the field and 81 percent from the free throw line. At 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds, Stevens can be a “stretch big” who forces other teams’ big men to defend an uncomfortable area of the court. His play also can stretch all the way out to the 3-point line, shooting over 37 percent, which is an impressive percentage from a four-or-five-spot player.
Increasing the depth at guard, Kennedy also landed two talented guards via the recruiting ranks. Devontae Shuler was the top shooting guard recruit in the SEC out of Oak Hill Academy and is not only a dominant scorer but a strong rebounder and gets his fair share of steals. He can also be pushed outside and play as a small forward. His freshman counterpart, Ilya “Mouse” Tyrtyshnik, was added to the class late from Ukraine. Tyrtyshnik represented his country at the FIBA U20 European Championship and has the ability to grow into a confident point guard. Shuler and Tyrtyshnik both have great size as guards and will only get better as they gain experience in the SEC.
The Rebels will tip off the season this weekend with an exhibition game on Sunday against North Alabama before the regular season begins on November 10 against Louisiana-Lafayette. Kennedy’s squad will travel to Las Vegas to compete in the MGM Grand Main Event on November 20 and 22 and play nine non-conference games before SEC play gets underway in The Pavilion on New Year’s Eve.
Andy Kennedy looks to add to his .627 win percentage as he begins his 12th season in Oxford and is once again being doubted after the SEC media poll picked the Rebels to finish tenth in the conference. Kennedy has proven to outperform predictions, and with his deepest team yet, the Rebels could be miles ahead of the predicted 10th position.
The Rebels kick off their 2016-2017 campaign against the University of Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns at 7:00 pm Friday night at the Pavillion.