It’s time to get familiar with the name Dominik Olejniczak.
Olejniczak, Ole Miss men’s basketball’s 7-foot center from Torun, Poland, is poised to make a size 15 leap in his second year in Oxford after transferring from Drake University in 2016.
“He’s played really well,” first-year head coach Kermit Davis said. “In our two scrimmages (Murray State and Fayetteville State) he’s put up some really impressive numbers.”
In eighteen minutes against Fayetteville State, Olejniczak poured in 15 points, six rebounds and three blocks on 7-11 shooting from the field.
While the caliber of competition from Fayetteville State isn’t comparable to what the Rebels will face once the regular season begins on Saturday, his 15 points would have been good for his second highest scoring game of his Ole Miss career.
Coach Davis’ offensive system emphasizes sharing the ball, taking shots later in the shot clock and getting post touches to Olejniczak and power forward Bruce Stevens.
Last season, Olejniczak and Stevens couldn’t share the floor, mainly for defensive reasons. However, Stevens has cut weight in the offseason and Olejniczak has put some pounds on.
“Bruce is a way better player than he was last year, as far as being able to guard the four,” Olejniczak said. “That’s what really was holding back the matchup of having us in the game at the same time.”
Olejniczak looks noticeably larger since Ole Miss’ last game against South Carolina in the SEC Tournament. He’s since gained 17 pounds in the offseason and is up to a current weight of 262 pounds. Olejniczak’s sturdy frame has allowed him to grow as both a post presence and a rim protector.
“I’m not going to jump over the defender, so I’m working lower to the ground,” Olejniczak said. “When I’m stronger, I’m able to hold my position, get rebounds, set better screens and be able to push guys on the low post.”
Davis emphasized repeatedly in the preseason that Stevens will step out to the three point line more often this season, where he shot 28 percent on only 1.6 attempts per game last season.
“I feel like Bruce can really pass and shoot,” Olejniczak said. “So I have way more space under the basket. We have way more options to score.”
But as the lane opens up and defenses are hopefully forced to focus in on the seven footer on the block, Stevens’ shots should come from much higher percentage opportunities.
An issue with former head coach Andy Kennedy’s offense was that the guards had nearly free rein to take whatever shot they saw fit. The hope from the newly minted coaching staff is that as opportunities on the perimeter arise, Olejniczak and Stevens will be free to work an inside-out game that will open up easier shots for the likes of Terence Davis, Breein Tyree and Devontae Schuler.
“I love how (Coach Kermit Davis) tells the guys during practices to look down low,” Olejniczak said. “Because I think he knows if we’re going to get looks down low, the perimeter will be more open.”