Column: It’s crunch time for head coach Kermit Davis and Ole Miss basketball recruiting

Posted on Mar 29 2018 - 5:57am by Maison Brooks-Tolley

With a new coaching staff comes new challenges, and in his first few weeks as head coach of Ole Miss basketball, Kermit Davis has experienced these challenges firsthand. After meeting with three-star recruit Serrel Smith last week to discuss the future of the program, coach Davis released him from his letter of intent, and Smith will reopen his recruitment.

This week, another recruit has followed suit. Three-star recruit Anthony Higgins was granted a release from his letter of intent by Ole Miss.

Though, on the surface, this is not a positive turn, the reality is that players commit much in part to coaching staffs, and with changes comes reevaluation.

Now that Ole Miss and Davis have settled in and seen where they stand with Kennedy’s signees, where do they go from here?

Despite coming in at a disadvantage, Davis and his staff have kept busy sending out offers, conducting in-home visits and evaluating talent for the 2018 class and beyond.

Ole Miss’ new men’s basketball head coach Kermit Davis speaks during his introductory press conference in the Pavilion on Monday night. Photo by Logan Conner

After only five days on the job, coach Davis offered a position to three-star small forward Antavion Collum, from Memphis. Collum, a 6-foot-7, 215-pounder Tennessee Prep Academy star has significant offers from Florida, Georgetown, Iowa State, Kansas State, Maryland, Memphis, Pittsburgh and Western Kentucky.

Keeping with the height, the Rebels are set to host recently reclassified four-star forward Blake Hinson. The coveted forward from Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas checks in at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds and holds offers from Clemson, Florida State, Memphis, Missouri, SMU and Wichita State.

Though there is much uncertainty in the class, coach Davis and his staff received good news last week when junior college forward Zach Naylor shared his intentions to stay in the Rebel class and join the new head coach in Oxford. The 6-foot-7 Houston native played center for Weatherford College this past season and was a force to be reckoned with, averaging 20 points and nine rebounds per game in the 2017-18 season. With the Rebels losing Marcanvis Hymon and Justas Furmanavicius, forward depth is pivotal for this year’s class, and gaining Naylor is a big win for Davis.

Following Naylor’s announcement, coach Davis and his staff know where their numbers sit for the 2018 class and can begin to target other players on their radar. These players include Michael Barber and members of Davis’ former Middle Tennessee signing class.

As a three-star small forward, Barber is one name that has been under the radar for most of the recruitment cycle. The Jackson Academy star holds notable offers from Ole Miss, Baylor, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Ohio State and UNLV. The 6-foot-7 Mississippi native is a top-five player in Mississippi and the No. 76 small forward in the country. Despite his impressive track record and several college offers, Barber is in no hurry to make a decision, so Davis will have plenty of time to make his pitch.

Making the transition from Murfreesboro to Oxford, Davis will certainly reach out to his former Middle Tennessee class of recruits, who happen to all be from Georgia, and try to sway them to make the same decision to relocate.

K.J. Buffen is a top-200 player who holds many notable college offers. The 6-foot-7 three-star small forward led Gainesville High School to a 24-7 record this season and a state runner-up finish.

Tye Fagan, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, committed to MTSU back in September after offers from College of Charleston, Georgia, Mercer and South Florida. Fagan averaged 25.3 points per game for Upson-Lee High School and would be a nice addition to the Rebels’ back court.

The final member of Davis’ former class is Carlos Curry. A 6-foot-11 power forward chose to squad up with the Rebels’ new head coach over other impressive offers and take his talents to MTSU. Curry average 13.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game in high school and would provide a much-needed paint presence.

Though it’s not impossible that all three recruits follow Davis to Oxford, there are many questions surrounding their recommitment, and after the new coach’s recruiting efforts, there may not be enough room.

Ultimately, the air is cleared, and coach Davis and his staff know where they stand. With little time to get their class in order, it’s crunch time.