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Offseason challenge triggering different role for Ole Miss’ Marcanvis Hymon

Most of Ole Miss’ interior scoring in recent years left with Sebastian Saiz after last season when the only player in the SEC to average a double-double ran out of eligibility.

That left Marcanvis Hymon as the most experienced player in the Rebels’ frontcourt heading into this season, and head coach Andy Kennedy wanted the senior to play like it.

“I challenged him to lead that group of bigs because of his experience,” Kennedy said.

Ole Miss is just one game in, but Hymon is quickly taking that challenge to heart.

Hymon went for 12 points and 13 rebounds in Ole Miss’ season-opening win over Louisiana-Lafayette last week. He didn’t need many shots to do it, scoring his first six points within the first few minutes and finishing 5 of 7 from the field and 2 of 3 from the free-throw line.

It was more offense than Ole Miss is used to getting out of Hymon, whose role has predominantly been rebounding and defense. It was just the third career double-double for Hymon, who’s never averaged more than 6.1 points in a season, but a welcomed sight for a team that’s wanting more offense from the power forward spot.

“Kudos to the kid. He’s had a great summer,” Kennedy said. “He’s really approached it like a veteran and like you hope he would. He’s played more minutes for us than anybody on our team. He’s the only guy that’s been in the program now going into his fourth year, and he’s really worked.”

Hymon heard his coach’s plea, but with time running out on his career, the 6-foot-7, 220-pounder said he also put in more offseason work than usual for himself. Hymon said he committed himself to working on his post moves to bring out the offense he knew he had but hadn’t shown much of his first three seasons in Oxford.

“I got in the gym, I sacrificed things I kind of wanted to do and kind of committed myself to the gym knowing this was my last year,” Hymon said. “I wanted to put it all into one year and just work.

“It’s confidence. I always knew I could do those things and I worked at it more. … It’s confidence, just relaxing and just playing ball.”

A disappointing junior season also served as motivation for Hymon in his effort to help replace Saiz’s production. He started 24 of the Rebels’ 36 games last season, rotating with Justas Furmanavicius at the power forward spot, and saw his points drop to just 3.5 per game.

“Sometimes I kind of have those flashbacks like, ‘I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to go through that phase again,’” he said. “I flushed that from last year, but I learned from it and still watch film on it. I feel I done gained weight and got stronger. I just became more of a leader and just took things head on. Last year is in the past. I’m all for this year and the future.”

Furmanavicius is back for another season but averaged just 6.3 points last season and played 10 scoreless minutes in the opener. Drake transfer Dominik Olejniczak is taking over at center but scored just two points in 23 minutes and likely needs some time to knock off the rust that comes with sitting out a full season.

Junior college transfer Bruce Stevens, who scored nine points in his Ole Miss debut, is being counted on to be an offensive threat in the frontcourt, but Hymon is hoping to finally be one, too.

“With Sebastian being out, I knew someone had to step up at the big spot,” Hymon said. “I wanted to be that. (Kennedy) challenged me, and I felt like I took that task head on.”