Ole Miss basketball coach Kermit Davis spent all of preseason practice trying to play as many players as he could.
It was an effort that carried into Tuesday’s 91-62 exhibition win over West Georgia.
All 14 players on the roster got in the game and not just with trash seconds at the end. Everybody played at least six minutes.
That’s great for parents and girlfriends, but it’s not a realistic model moving ahead.
Eight is enough.
Some coaches may choose to cast a wider net in their playing rotation, but there’s always a smaller core group that will get most of the minutes.
Davis has always worked to see as many players as possible in live action in the exhibitions.
Now he’ll begin the process of whittling away at that number.
“That may take us a while. Practice over the next four or five days will be critical,” said Davis, who is beginning his fifth season.
Davis got the Rebels into the NCAA tournament in his first season but not since then.
The Rebels were on the bubble in Year 3 when they were an NIT 1 seed but not so close last year when a run of injuries had key players missing games or playing at less than full strength.
Now in an important year for Davis there are six players returning from last year’s 13-19 team.
A few items of note from the exhibition:
Jaemyn Brakefield, a 6-foot-8 Duke transfer, had 16 points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes, far more than the 7.7 points and 4.3 rebounds he averaged last year in his first season at Ole Miss.
The Rebels need greater consistency from Brakefield.
Keep in mind West Georgia competes at the Division II level, but if Brakefield can approach those numbers more often than not he’ll be an important piece as Ole Miss tries to rebuild inside.
Freshman guard Amaree Abram didn’t shoot well (1 for 5) but had six assists and just one turnover in 18 minutes. That speaks to confidence. The shots will come.
Daeshun Ruffin, an explosive playmaker at guard, saw his first action since tearing his ACL last February. He played 17 minutes.
Sophomore James White was a scoring machine in three games during the Rebels’ summer Bahamas trip after averaging 2.2 points as a freshman.
He was 3 for 4 from the floor.
If White becomes a big deal this could really be a nice backcourt with Ruffin, Abram, White and veteran Matthew Murrell. Davis could have mix-and-match options to find the hot hand.
That remains to be seen.
Davis has restocked his roster with a different approach. Last year the transfers were from Duke, Miami and Georgia. This year the previous schools are Jackson State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Loyola-New Orleans and Buffalo.
Nobody said “Wow,” when the graphics announcing these new transfers flashed on Twitter, but Davis addressed needs.
Now that recruiting evaluation has to be on the mark to get this team back in the postseason mix.
The first step will be identifying that playing rotation.
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