Ole Miss basketball has three commitments in its 2019 class.
But it won’t stay that way for long.
The Rebels are hot after a number of highly-ranked targets, headlined by four-star forward DJ Jeffries, who’s ranked as the No. 47 prospect nationally and the No. 1 player in Mississippi. Jeffries is nearing a decision, with sources indicating the race is down to Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Memphis. Also on the board are, among others, four-star forward Chandler Lawson, the nation’s No. 77 prospect, and four-star guards KyKy Tandy and Tyrell Jones.
Three-star Antavion Collum, a close friend of Jeffries and Lawson, committed to Ole Miss Sept. 25. He’s been in active in the recruitment of Jeffries, a lifelong friend and former teammate of Collum’s at Olive Branch. Additional targets include Bahamian forward Sammy Hunter. JUCO guard Bryce Williams committed on Thursday. Ole Miss is considered the favorite for Hunter. The Rebels currently hold his only scheduled official visit, set for Oct. 19.
Jeffries and Lawson, along with Collum, visited Ole Miss officially Sept. 14. Ole Miss commitment Rodney Howard was in town as well, albeit on an unofficial basis. Lawson is down to Ole Miss, Kansas, Georgia Tech and Oregon. He visits Oregon this weekend. Kansas, which rosters his brothers, hasn’t offered.
Ole Miss could sign as many as six players in the fall signing period, which opens Nov. 14, meaning the Rebels have three spots available, assuming they hold onto Collum, Williams and Howard.
In short, Ole Miss is recruiting at a level under first-year head coach Kermit Davis not seen in years. While Davis wasn’t able to go into specifics due to NCAA rules, he attributes the success on the trail, first and foremost, to the university he’s selling.
“I give a lot of credit, obviously, to the place we’re selling,” he said. “Our staff has done a great job. Really have. We told ourselves when we got this job we’re not going to put up any barriers, be intimidated. But we’re not going to recruit stupid either. There’s a difference. If you’re betting on horses, you get some money for show and place. In recruiting, you get nothing for show and place, finishing second, third or fourth. All these (recruits we’re in on) are legitimate guys. I think it’s just Ole Miss, it’s the SEC and working at it. We’ve got to win some of those battles, win some tough ones. Some of those we may have been a little behind when we got started. But I do think in the next couple of years if we get our teeth into these guys when they’re really young, we’ve really got some great chances to land some guys for a really great place here at Ole Miss.”
Ole Miss assistant coach Ronnie Hamilton spent four seasons with Davis at Middle Tennessee State before being hired to join his staff in Oxford in March. The recruiting ability of Davis, he said, can be directly tied to the relentlessness he displays in how he goes after talent.
Ole Miss is reaping the benefits.
“No. 1, we’ve got a great place to sell,” Hamilton said. “This institution, this campus, this community, that’s what we’ve told recruits and parents and coaches. Just come see it. Once you do that, people just get blown away with everything that we have to offer. And then No. 2, obviously, the effort and the work we put in. Coach Davis, give him tons of credit. There are a lot of head coaches that rely on assistant coaches, and we obviously put a lot of work in, but coach recruits like he’s an assistant coach. By his efforts, his connections and the relationships that we’ve had, we’ve been able to get a lot of kids on campus. We feel really good about where we’re at so far in our 2019 class. We still need to add a couple more guys that can really contribute early. I think we’re really close. As we get into November, the early signing period, I think you’ll see some of this work pay off in terms of finishing this class the way we want to.”
As the recruitments of Collum, Jeffries and Lawson have proven, talent-rich Memphis has been reopened for the Rebels. Oxford is but an hour or so drive from the Bluff City and has produced such Ole Miss standouts as Terrico White, Reginald Buckner and Martavious Newby.
Lately, though, Memphis hasn’t been too kind to Ole Miss. That is, until Davis landed Collum and positioned Ole Miss as a contender for Jeffries and Lawson. Ole Miss has built its recruiting pitch on the strong bond held by the trio – a pitch that has certainly resonated, most especially with Jeffries.
Of course, whether it’s enough for Ole Miss to win out remains to be seen.
“You’re right down the road,” Hamilton said. “Coach Davis, one of his first talks and philosophies and things he talked to us about as a staff is we’ve got to try to keep the very best players in Mississippi home. In a lot of ways, even though it’s in Tennessee, is home because of the locality and how close it is. We’re going to make a concerted effort. There’s so many good players in Memphis to go around, so to speak. We’ve got to be involved with the very best players in that city in and around here. It is so close, one of the attractions to a lot of parents is they want to be able to watch their sons play. Because of proximity and talent level, we want to make a concerted effort to try to keep the best players in Mississippi home and treat Memphis the same way. We’ve made great strides there early on.”