Ole Miss basketball took another step toward a new era on Monday as it held its first official practice and media day.
Head coach Kermit Davis was eager to get started as the season nears. At media day, Davis reflected on how opening days have changed since he began coaching.
“This is my 37th year in college basketball,” Davis said. “Opening practice years and years ago was a lot different than it is today. Now, we’ve had our team since June, and we had 10 practices (in Canada). You’ve been able to work with your guys, which makes it better because you can go for shorter periods of time when (opening practice) starts.”
Davis said the practice time the team had in Canada in August helped put his players ahead of schedule heading into the 2018-19 season.
“I’m looking forward to coaching our team,” Davis said. “In one phase, we are way ahead where we should be just because of the time in Canada. We got a lot of things in, which now allows you to get to four-on-four and five-on-five (drills) quicker, and that’s when you can make progress with your team.”
This season, the Rebels want to improve on their defense. According to Ole Miss senior guard Terence Davis, coach Kermit Davis has emphasized defense since he took the head coaching job.
“That’s something that coach Davis, ever since he got the job, has been forcing on me: ‘You’ve got to be a great defender,’” Terence Davis said. “In practice, that’s what I’m trying to be.”
Coach Davis said his team has improved since its time in Canada and that he hopes to continue reinforcing the importance of solid defense.
“Our ball movement is a lot better than it was,” coach Davis said. “Defensively, we’re making strides, but we’ve got to be a team that grinds possessions.”
According to Terence Davis, the new coaching staff has brought noticeable improvements to the basketball IQ of the roster.
“Just the knowledge of the game — the terminology and things like that,” Davis said. “I’ve learned so much in the last few months. Since coach (Davis) has been here, I’ve learned so much about the game of basketball that I didn’t know already.”
Senior forward Bruce Stevens echoed his teammate’s evaluation of coach Davis, and said he enjoys the fact that coach Davis is involved in every level of the program.
“Coach Davis is a really good coach,” Stevens said. “He doesn’t just talk to his players; he talks to everybody, like the coaching staff — even the managers. That’s what I like about him. He stays on everybody, every single day.”
While the Rebel seniors have been a focus of coach Davis and his staff, sophomore guard Devontae Shuler and other underclassmen have been coached in specific areas, as well.
“(Shuler) is very competitive,” coach Davis said. “He doesn’t flinch at being coached. Now, (we’re) trying to really get him to run a team — not dribble it, but really run a team. And he’s made strides in that.”
Not all news has been positive for the hardwood Rebels, however. According to coach Davis, freshman guards Franco Miller Jr. and Luis Rodriguez have both sustained injuries in practice that will require surgery. Despite losing two of the best young athletes on his team, Davis is confident that the team will be able to move forward without much of a hitch as they try to keep the rest of the roster healthy.
“(Injuries are) part of it,” Davis said. “As you go through practice, the biggest thing is making
progress and staying healthy.”
Ole Miss opens its regular season on Nov. 10 at home against Western Michigan.