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Ole Miss basketball’s Terence Davis emerging in starting role

Terence Davis is still learning.

Like when you’re all alone on a breakaway, it’s best to be sure rather than flashy. Davis’ 360-degree dunk attempt against Memphis last month in what was a tie game at the time still makes for humorous banter among teammates and coaches that might not have been so amusing had Ole Miss’ sophomore guard not got fouled on the play and made both free throws in a game the Rebels eventually won.

Davis found himself in the open floor multiple times Monday against Bradley but settled for the easy points on either a basic dunk or a layup in a 17-point win.

“(Head coach Andy Kennedy) was like, ‘Sometimes I forget you’re a sophomore,’” Davis said. “He was saying I’m still young, but even though I’m a sophomore, I don’t even think of myself as a sophomore. I feel like an upperclassman.”

Davis is producing like one.

He’s been a revelation for the Rebels, averaging 12.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in the first extended playing time of his career. Since moving into the starting lineup five games ago, he’s posting 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds a game.

Davis has scored at least 16 points in three of the last four games after scoring 35 points all of last season during a freshman year in which the inability to make much of an impact harbored frustration. Davis starred in two sports at Southaven High and was ranked by Rivals.com as one of the nation’s top 150 basketball prospects in the 2015 class but averaged just 1.8 points in 6.6 minutes a season ago.

“Last year was the worst for me,” Davis said. “At one time, I wanted to leave and wanted to just go home.”

Change in plans
Davis, a wide receiver in high school, dropped football in the offseason and stuck with basketball, focusing on earning more minutes by improving his all-around game to go with his natural athleticism. Kennedy referred to Davis as the team’s most improved player before the season and played him 25 minutes in the season opener against Tennessee-Martin.

He scored a career-high 19 points then and hasn’t come off the floor much since.

“He can make hard plays for us, and we need more of those guys,” Kennedy said. “The guys that are capable of doing it like him, we need to be consistent in that area.”

Davis had seven other points in addition to those free throws along with three rebounds against Memphis but hasn’t had fewer than 10 points and six boards since. He followed with back-to-back double-doubles against Virginia Tech and Murray State and poured in 19 points against Bradley as his shot selection improves knowing most teams have a hard time staying in front of his 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame on the perimeter.

“We try to get him downhill in everything he does being in attack mode,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said Davis is still settling for more outside shots than he’d like at times, but Davis has been making them more frequently. He’s knocking down 43 percent (9 of 21) of his 3-pointers over the last four games.

There’s still a ways to go for an athlete as raw as Davis is, but his game has matured enough to help Ole Miss to a 9-3 record in the non-conference. So has his confidence.

“I told myself after the Virginia Tech game — that was the first time I had a double-double — I was like, ‘I can do this every game,’” Davis said. “I just let it come to me now.”

The schedule is about to stiffen considerably with No. 6 Kentucky paying a visit to The Pavilion on Thursday to open Southeastern Conference play, and Davis knows he’ll finally have a much bigger role against the Wildcats and beyond as Ole Miss spends the next couple of months trying to piece together a resume worthy of an NCAA Tournament bid.

“When we opened SEC play (last season), it was crazy. I was just like, ‘Man, I just want to play,’” Davis said. “One time on the bench, I was sitting there wanting to cry. It was crazy. You want to play so bad and you know you can help the team, but you’ve just got to wait your turn sometimes.”