Young Rebels blending in during summer basketball
It’s pronounced Crow-ley. Like the bird. Even head coach Kermit Davis got the Ole Miss freshman’s name wrong when he first showed up on campus. Breein Tyree mispronounced Austin Crowley’s name while speaking to media on Thursday as well.
But that’s okay – it’s really just a situational example that shows how young the 2019-20 Rebel men’s basketball team will be.
Tyree is the lone senior the Ole Miss team this upcoming season. Devontae Shuler is the only junior. Dominik Olejniczak, Brian Halums and Zach Naylor all transferred out and Terence Davis, Bruce Stevens and D.C. Davis all graduated.
Left behind is two upperclassmen and a lot of youth – four true freshmen, to be specific.
“They’re really, really, really talented freshmen, just like I was. But they’re freshmen. They don’t even really know what they don’t know yet,” Tyree said. “Our freshman class is going to get a whole lot better as the season goes along and even before it even starts.”
The five returning Rebels, along with Franco Miller, Jr. and Carlos Curry, who redshirted last year, have been in Oxford over the summer. True freshmen Austin Crowley and Antavion Collum, along with Oxford local Jarkel Joyner have been here most of the summer as well.
Two others, Bryce Williams and Khadim Sy, joined the team at the start of the second summer semester, so they’ve been working out with the team about a month now. Sammy Hunter, the final member of the 2019 recruiting class, is still finishing up some academic work. The team expects him to be done soon and on campus in August.
“It’s really young. I don’t think I’ve had a team this young,” Davis said. “I was thinking about that a couple of weeks ago. We’re going to count on a lot of youth… that’s what we kind of have to understand. We don’t have the Canadian trip.”
Last year’s Rebel team saw two true freshmen getting a lot of minutes, in K.J. Buffen and Blake Hinson. Those two had the benefit of the Canadian trip Davis mentioned, extra summer practices and live games in the summer and early fall up in Canada against some real basketball teams.
This year’s unit won’t get that. They’ll have to grow on the fly, and Ole Miss will need them from the start.
It’s weird, that in this team, they’re almost veterans despite being true sophomores. But they’ve also done a lot of work this summer. Blake Hinson re-shaped his body. He weighs essentially the same as last year, but Davis said that he may be the most improved pure athlete on the team. K.J. Buffen has put on some needed weight from his freshman year and Davis noted his improved leadership and working on his shooting confidence.
“Obviously, as his role gets bigger – which it will this year – it’s us having more confidence in him and encouraging him to be able to shoot the ball,” Davis said. “He can be that kind of stretch four that has physical toughness and drives, but can make perimeter shots.”
As Davis said, it’s one of the youngest teams he’s coached and it’s one of the younger Ole Miss teams in recent memory. The Rebels are going to rely a lot on some true freshmen and a ton from some guys with just one year under their belt. It’ll sure be different, but it should be a lot of fun in The Pavilion come fall.
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