The Ole Miss Rebels are transitioning to a new era of their program: life without All-SEC guard Breein Tyree. Their talisman averaged nearly 20 PPG in his senior season before graduating, and Rebels head coach Kermit Davis is now tasked with replacing that production. The Rebels have added some high-level players through both prep recruiting and the transfer portal, and those players combined with their returning talent makes Ole Miss one of the dark-horse teams in the SEC this upcoming season.
Who’s Back, Who’s Gone?
As mentioned above, Breein Tyree has departed Oxford after graduation, but the Rebels have lost other key pieces as well. Third-leading scorer and top rebounder Blake Hinson entered the transfer portal after the season, citing racial tensions in the state of Mississippi. Hinson ended up transferring to Iowa State, where he will sit out the season due to a non-COVID related medical condition. Additionally, reserves G Bryce Williams, F Carlos Curry and G Franco Miller Jr. transferred to Oklahoma State, Northwest Mississippi Community College and Florida Gulf Coast, respectively.
The Rebels, on the other hand, return a number of players from their team last season, most notably G Devontae Shuler, who averaged 11.7 PPG opposite Tyree and who is a prime candidate to step into more opportunities vacated by Tyree. F KJ Buffen, who could be Ole Miss’ biggest breakout candidate, is also returning for his junior season after averaging 10.1 PPG last season and starting all 32 games. Shuler and Buffen are the headline returners, but the Rebels also return a number of key contributors, namely F Khadim Sy (who started 29 games last season as Ole Miss’ big man) , G Austin Crowley, F Sammy Hunter, G Luis Rodriguez, F Antavion Collum and F Shon Robinson, who all played at least 17 games with the exception of Rodriguez, who missed most of last season due to various foot and wrist injuries.
The Rebels have five newcomers heading to Oxford to play for Davis, with four of those being transfers from other Division 1 schools. The headliners of this recruiting class are the two graduate transfers, G Dimencio Vaughn (Rider) and F Romello White (Arizona State). Both of those players were huge contributors to their respective teams, with Vaughn averaging nearly 15 points and 7 rebounds for the Broncos of the MAAC and White nearly averaging a points-rebounds double-double for the Sun Devils. Outside of those two graduate transfers, the Rebels bring in two other transfers in juniors F Robert Allen (14.1 PPG and 7.0 RPG at Samford) and G Jarkel Joiner, who sat out last season after transferring to Oxford from Cal State Bakersfield, where he averaged 15.6 PPG in the 2018-19 season. Rounding out the five-man newcomer class is top-40 combo G, Matthew Murrell, from IMG Academy that will be in the conversation for playing time in the guard spots.
G: Devontae Shuler
G: Dimencio Vaughn
F: KJ Buffen
F: Romello White
F: Khadim Sy
Bench: Jarkel Joiner
Bench: Luis Rodriguez
Bench: Robert Allen
Bench: Austin Crowley
Bench: Sammy Hunter
Bench: Antavion Collum
Bench: Shon Robinson
Bench: Matthew Murrell
The Rebels have tons of options in the backcourt, but there is no indication that the Rebels will opt for a three-guard starting lineup. Shuler and Vaughn seem to be shoe-ins for those backcourt positions, but Murrell and Joyner have legitimate claims to one of those roles if there are struggles from Shuler or Vaughn. Buffen is a forward that plays like a guard, and given that Davis opted to start Buffen all 32 games last season, he gets the starting spot with Crowley factoring in off the bench. In the frontcourt, White and Sy slot in as the starters, while Allen and Rodriguez provide quality depth to an area that was arguably the biggest issue area for the Rebels last season.
Looking to the Future
The Rebels have three commitments in the 2021 recruiting class, with one spot remaining before they have the requisite 13 scholarship players. This class is led by top-40 point guard and former Alabama target Daeshun Ruffin from Callaway HS in Jackson, MS, who is an undersized but dynamic scorer at only 5’9”. The other two commitments come from three-star guards, James White (Conyers, GA) and Grant Slatten (Sparta, TN), who will provide depth at the wing positions after the senior class departs Oxford. Look for the Rebels to be aggressive in the transfer market for a forward that can replace Sy and White post-graduation, while remaining competitive on 2021 prep targets.
After a less-successful second season, Kermit Davis is looking to return back to winning ways in a similar way to his first season, when the Rebels won 20 games and made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2014-15 season. The graduate transfers will help with the transition from Breein Tyree, and with returning starters like Shuler, Buffen and Sy, as well as the additions of Allen and Joyner, it’s hard not to be bullish on the prospects of Ole Miss being a dark horse contender in the SEC, if not a tough out every time they play.
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