VIDEO: Ole Miss men’s hoops working in new pieces

Published 5:53 pm Monday, October 26, 2015

The good news for Ole Miss’ men’s basketball team? Stefan Moody is back.

The bad news? Just about every other significant contributor from last year’s NCAA tournament team isn’t.

The Rebels started preseason practice in preparation for the season opener against Northwestern State on Nov. 13 with eight new players on the floor and four of their top six scorers from a season ago no longer around.

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Gone is Jarvis Summers’ stability at the point along with fellow guard LaDarius White, the Rebels’ third-leading scorer a season ago. Ole Miss also took a hit in the frontcourt when M.J. Rhett’s lone year of eligibility came and went, Aaron Jones graduated and Dwight Coleby transferred to Kansas.

Moody, the league’s top returning scorer and a preseason All-SEC first-team selection, is a good place to start, and the Rebels return two more starters in guard Martavious Newby and forward Sebastian Saiz. But the Rebels have plenty of minutes to replace and roles to fill for a team that went 21-13 a season ago and made it to the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons.

That starts with finding a replacement for Summers, who was just the second point guard in head coach Andy Kennedy’s 10-year tenure to start all four seasons. Junior college transfer Sam Finley is the favorite to step in there with freshman J.T. Escobar pushing for minutes.

“This is a new wave for me that I’ve got two guys — one’s a freshman and one’s a junior college transfer — that we’re asking to lead this team,” Kennedy said. “We’re giving them a lot of information and trying to overload them in a number of different ways, and I’ve been pleased with both of them.”

Junior college transfer Rasheed Brooks and freshman Terence Davis could also be in the rotation at guard. Liberty transfer Tomasz Gielo, at 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, will be counted on to stretch the defense with his shooting ability from the 4, or power forward, spot.

Gielo averaged 12 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Flame in seven games last season before a non-surgical stress fracture forced him to take a medical redshirt.

Watch Kennedy talk about his newcomers, injuries and the upcoming season in the video below.

As for Moody, the senior guard said he’s back to his usual bouncy self after suffering a stress fracture of his own in his leg back in June that kept him out of basketball-related activities for a couple of months.

“As of right now, it feels better than before,” said Moody, who averaged 16.6 points a game a season ago.

Moody talks about his recovery process and the upcoming season in the following video.

See Tuesday’s edition of the EAGLE for more from Monday’s media session.