OXFORD • In its second season under coach Kermit Davis, Ole Miss basketball has big shoes to fill at the 3 – the small forward position – with the departure of Terence Davis.
A free agent signee, Terence Davis is getting 7.6 minutes a game as a rookie with the NBA champion Toronto Raptors.
Replacing his production for the Rebels will likely be a committee effort, but Luis Rodriguez may prove to be the committee chair.
Kermit Davis in the off-season raved about the “basketball IQ” of freshman Austin Crowley and has added other impressive pieces to his roster, so many that it might be easy to overlook a sophomore with minimal contributions last year.
Rodriguez, though, has worked his way into a key role, perhaps as a starter, in the early days of the season.
The Rebels take on Mississippi College in an exhibition tonight at 6:30 at The Pavilion. Admission is free, but contributions for the team’s Bahamas’ relief drive are encouraged.
Rodriguez started in the Rebels’ scrimmage against Texas late last month.
Davis has praised his off-season work, and Rodriguez, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound native of Los Angeles, continues to excel in the practice points system favored by Davis to help where players stand.
“We keep these point totals of everything, rebounding, assists, turnovers, deflections, 50-50 balls everything. Luis is probably second or top three on our team in all those types of points,” Davis said.
If he was a bit overwhelmed as a freshman Rodriguez says he’s taking a more mature approach to college basketball a year later.
Learning the job
“I’m just taking it more serious, being in the gym, watching film from last year, seeing the stuff I didn’t do as well and working on everything. Having that experience from last year to now, knowing what I need to do to get better has helped me put it all together,” he said.
Rodriguez played 152 minutes last year mostly in non-conference games. He had 27 points and 27 rebounds.
He says he’s playing faster and is a much better scorer.
“It’s knowing the offense and having that confidence, being physical and being able to challenge guys in practice, push them around to a certain extent. That’s helped me a lot for sure.”
Rodriguez is being pushed by Crowley, a Vanderbilt signee who was released from his scholarship after a coaching change in Nashville. They are among a number of players jockeying for roles.
Davis says Rodriguez can be an “elite” defender if he continues to improve.
“He’s physical on the ball, but he’s got to get more committed off the ball. He can be one of the elite defenders on our team and in our league, but he’s got to rebound it better than what he’s done probably in the last couple of weeks. He’s got everything there … great feet, great strength, athletic. He’s more comfortable in what we’re doing than he was this time last year.”