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Olstad: Preview of Ole Miss Men’s Basketball Squad for 2015-2016 Season

Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics
Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

Ole Miss Basketball kicks off Thursday night, November 5, at 6:00 p.m. in an unofficial exhibition game against Clayton State.

The first official contest of the regular season starts November 13 against Northwestern State. Both games will be played at home at Tad Smith Coliseum. Only the first six home games including Thursday’s exhibition matchup will be played in the Tad Smith Coliseum before the Rebels move into their brand new home at the Pavilion on January 7 to face Alabama.

Not only is the Ole Miss team excited to start a new age of Rebel basketball in the $95 million Pavilion, but the team is also thrilled to have key members return for the 2015-2016 season. Among them are junior forward Sebastian Saiz, senior guard Newby Martavious, and senior guard Stefan Moody, all who started for Ole Miss a majority of last season.

Moody led the team and SEC in scoring last season with 16.6 points per game along with 18.6 points in conference play. Moody’s scoring and overall performance earned him a spot on the All-SEC first team for the preseason. He will be the Rebels’ prime scorer and playmaker on offense again this season.

Ole Miss will depend on Saiz’s strength and 7’6″ wingspan to continue his great defensive game that he gave the Rebels last year. Saiz was the team’s leading rebounder last year with 5.5 per game and will hopefully continue to improve his rebounding totals to help Ole Miss in an area of the game they’ve struggled with in past seasons.

Junior Sam Finley will make the transition from shooting guard to point guard for the team, replacing Jarvis Summers who started every game for the Rebels a season ago. “Athletic, strong, and fast” were just some of the words used by 10th year Head Coach Andy Kennedy to describe the junior from Riverside, California.

Coach Kennedy is also excited about the Rebels’ offense, calling this year team the most “offensively versatile” group he has had this tenure. This versatility comes from Senior Forwards Tomasz Gielo and Anthony Perez whose long range shooting abilities will give the Rebels another dimension they haven’t had in several years. With more shooters on the floor, Ole Miss will look to push the ball as often as possible. This up-tempo offense will benefit from the new NCAA rule that changed the shot expiration time from 35 to 30 seconds.

The Rebels will lean on on their starters and returning players to perform well every game. They also look for new members of the team to step up and contribute. Alex Shepard, J.T. Escobar, and Terence Davis are all freshman guards added to team in the offseason. J.T. Escobar will backup Sam Finley at the point guard position and will give him the most playing time of all the Ole Miss freshman.

Ole Miss Rebels started the preseason practice at the beginning of October, giving the guys a solid month to perfect offensive plays and really gel as a team before the season begins. This extra time also gives players time to heal.

Junior forward Terry Brutus, who played well for the Rebels in last year’s March Madness Tournament, is sidelined with an ankle injury and will not return to the rotating lineup for another two weeks. Stefan Moody has also benefited from the extra time to return to full health from his stress fracture when he was accidently kicked in the shin during an open gym practice at the beginning of June.

With all pieces of the Ole Miss team coming together, the Rebels confidently look forward to compete with any conference or non-conference opponent and emerge as a top-tier SEC team.

Jack Olstad is a journalism student at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. He can be reached at jtolstad@go.olemiss.edu.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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