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Ole Miss men's/women's basketball holds media day

Kermit Davis Jr. and Yolett McPhee-McCuin, along with players, spoke with the media Monday afternoon in Oxford.

Posted: Oct 1, 2018 10:59 PM

OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics/WTVA) - The Ole Miss men's basketball team held its first official practice of the 2018-19 season Monday afternoon at The Pavilion. Prior to practice, head coach Kermit Davis met with the media to talk about the upcoming season.

Opening statement…
"This is my 37th year in college basketball, and opening practice years ago is a lot different than it is today. It used to be October 15th, you couldn't touch your guys in the summer, couldn't watch them play. You couldn't do anything with them in the fall. It was different You had about six weeks to get them ready. But now, we've had our team since June where we've gotten four hours a week, and we had them for 10 practices before going to Canada. So, you're able to work with your guys, which makes it better because you can go for shorter periods of time when the opening day starts. Opening day is kind of opening day, but it's going to be good to be able to be with our guys on a more consistent basis. I'm looking forward to coaching our team. We've got a lot of work. In one phase, we are way ahead of where we should be just because of the time we had. That really helped us a lot with offensive packages and defensive schemes so we've got a lot of things in which allows you to get to 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 quicker and make progress with your team."

Injury updates…
"We're a little beat up right now. It hasn't been a good week for our freshman class. Franco Miller had surgery Saturday, hasn't been healthy since he's been here. He came in with existing knee pain and has a fracture to the kneecap, so he'll be (out) anywhere from 3-5 weeks. Luis Rodriguez, who we counted on a bunch, was really our best defender and bumped knees with Bruce (Stevens) on Wednesday. We thought it was a contusion, but it's a meniscus so he's going to have surgery in the morning and he'll be probably miss 3-5 weeks. Those two guys hurt our depth. Obviously, it's part of it. As you go through practice, the biggest thing is making progress and staying healthy. When I was at Middle Tennessee, knock on wood, our very best players the last eight years, just part of the talent process, they were durable. They just did the course. I hope that'll be it for us, have both our guys make great recoveries, but we're looking forward to starting today and on a day-to-day basis."

On team's growth since the preseason trip to Canada…
"I think our ball movement is a lot better than it was. On Saturday, because we had been out recruiting, was maybe our best day as far as ball movement. Talking to an NBA coach, college coach, high school coach, everyone's talking about the ball sticking to the hands of guys. The ball getting side-to-side and playing unselfish, I think that's something that we've gotten better at. Defensively we're making strides. That's our biggest instance, we've got to become a team that can grind possessions. We don't go to next plays very well here, and that's something we've got to really work on. Turnovers lead to a basket on the other end, bad body language, those are some of the things that we're really emphasizing. A lot of it is we've got to grind defensive possessions in the half court and get back defensively."

On roster remaining intact…
"When I took the Middle Tennessee job 16 years ago, it was pretty much the same. We had some good players, the guys coming back had all been really good players in the league like these five guys back, including D.C. Davis who didn't get many minutes at all last year. We put him on scholarship. He's a part of the (other) five guys who have all had great moments in league play while they've been at Ole Miss. Then you look at the league that we're playing in, that's a big part of the equation also. You come into the SEC, which is a great conference, it's the best the league has ever been top to bottom in the history of the league which is great for all of us. Where you find yourself with five guys who have played in the SEC, that's not a big number out of 13."

On Devontae Shuler's game…
"He's built for us. He's very competitive and has a great motor. He doesn't flinch at being coached. He can be a really elite defender in our league. We're trying to get him to really run a team. Not dribble it, but to run the team and he's made strides with that. I think he's a good shooter, he's got good movement into his shot. Sometimes I think it's something when he stays more. When he shoots it he's gotten better. He's been really a pleasure to our whole staff to coach."

On the team this coaching staff wants to have…
"What I hope our team looks like is a team that has great toughness, a team that Ole Miss people come watch, they'll see a team that has really willing passers and that ball doesn't stick. There's a motion offense that creates spacing, not as much dribbling, driving with a purpose. When you see our team practice, you'll see tempo, physicality, toughness, a team that can rebound. We want to be a guard team where the guards are ready to rebound. That's really the stamp when people come and watch our teams play over the years, that's what they see year in and year out."

On team depth with the two freshmen out…
"That puts D.C. Davis (up there), who played well in the last game in Canada, who's very athletic, as athletic as anybody on the team, great wingspan, strong. He's a guy that's going to have to play minutes the entire year for us. We're moving KJ Buffen sometimes to the three where Blake Hinson can also move sometimes there with Franco (Miller Jr.) and Luis (Rodriguez) out. We haven't played Bruce (Stevens) and Dom (Olejniczak) together a lot. We gave Bruce a goal weight to hit to give him a chance to play power forward more often and play with Dom. Offensively, no doubt (he can play the four), but Bruce has got to be able to guard those live four men that are out on the floor moving around picking and popping, shooting threes. That's our biggest thing. If he can do that, then he can play four all day."

On timeline for guys out…
"It's hard for those freshmen. You have guys who have been for a couple years, been in the system, but these guys are missing so many mental reps where they may be physically okay, but it's going to be a process every single day, watching tape and all the other things. It'll put them back realistically to maybe the first of December where they can really be effective in live college games."

On KJ Buffen and Blake Hinson's play since Canada…
"They have made a lot of progress. KJ had his best practice on Saturday. He's just so skilled for his size and has gained about 13 or 14 pounds. Both of those guys are going to be terrific players at Ole Miss. They're easy to coach, both skilled, both can make threes. They're exactly the forwards that I had played together at Middle Tennessee. Both 6-7, 6-8. KJ will be 230 pounds before it's over, Blake's already there, and their skill level and floor spacing is there. They're going to play a lot together this year, some at the four, some at three."

On Terence Davis…
"He's got to become a guy that just doesn't rely on athletic ability to make plays. He's got to be an elite defender, not a guy that steals the ball just because he's faster than the other guy. But can he play within a defensive scheme and have a defensive concept and be a guy that can follow a scouting report and play with detail defensively? Now you get a guy who is that athletic and has a good motor, who really can start playing with more detail and he has really improved in that area. He's had some good moments in Oxford these last three years, but I think that's the biggest thing, can he be an elite defender and if he does it will really set the tone for the rest of our team? I've told TD, it's obvious, my biggest calling point will be can you coach your very best players the hardest, and if you can't you have no team. It's a nightmare if you're trying to fight your best players everyday with attitude and effort. I can do it, we all can do it. It's no fun to do it that way. Your best players are the guys that will be the easiest to coach, and with all the new players on our team, it really helps and he's been really good so far. We'll see with TD, Breein (Tyree), Devontae (Shuler) and those guys during the grind of October practice."

On Breein Tyree...
"He's spent a lot of time in our office, really articulate, good guy, real talent as you guys know. Same thing with TD, he's an offensive talent. The ball's got to get out of his hands and he has to play well without the ball. He can become a really elite defender, needs to become a better rebounder, and he's very athletic. As far as to coach Breein, he's been terrific. He's been great. You coach him, he just sits and listens. He's very receptive to coaching. All of those guys have been really good in that matter."

On now coaching a Power-5 team…
"Experience is everything. Every time I've started a new year, I think about my first job at Southwest (Mississippi) Community College in 1984 when Horace Holmes gave me a chance. I went down there and made so many mistakes coaching, but no one knew except for the three or four hundred people there who came to the games, and that was an upgrade. Now experience is an unbelievable thing. You're looking at coaches all around the country taking teams to Final Fours, winning championships. There have been a lot of really good young coaches, and a lot of guys that have a lot of coaching under their belt. That sure has helped us in recruiting sometimes going next to a guy that has a certain star by his name who really fits how we play, and I think that day-to-day experience with the teams helps. Experience does matter."

OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics/WTVA) - Ole Miss women's basketball head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin and Rebel seniors La'Karis Salter and Shandricka Sessom met with the media on Monday afternoon to discuss the upcoming 2018-19 season.

Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin

"I just wanted to thank everybody for coming out and supporting us today. This has been an eventful ride so far, getting out into the community, meeting people, friends that we have made in a short amount of time. It has been an honor to represent the University and utilize the resources we have to hunt for the next talent for our program and setting our tone for the future."

"Absolutely. That isn't just coming from me, but also my colleagues in the conference. They just couldn't believe that we were able to fill a roster in basically six weeks. That is tough to do for anybody. But we think that we did a great job and were strategic. We didn't go with a lot of freshmen and the freshmen that we went with I had a relationship with, so we knew what they will bring to the table. And it is going to really free us up to recruit heavily for the '19 and '20 class."

"Absolutely. I am thankful for my opportunity and experience at Jacksonville and recruiting at other Power-5 conferences in the past, there is just no way that I would have made it. The relationships that I was able to form really helped. People stepped up, and we were able to get it done."

"I just want us to play our game and give 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. I think that basketball minds will be able to see the direction we are going if the product is strong. Regardless, we have to get another level of talent in here in order to really be competitive in the SEC, which I think is the number one conference in the country. But one thing that you will see when our players play is that they are going to play hard, be excited to be out there, and you will see a great comradery amongst them."

"It has been great, surprisingly, to be honest with you. You have 14 or 15 different personalities. We recruited all the way until September. It has been new people on the roster left and right and they have done a good job. They have bought in, everyone is on board, everyone has been super positive, and that is what you ask for as a coach, regardless of whether you have been here a long time or not. They have really embraced me and bought into the vision already."

"The message to the returners basically was: Listen, you guys are my players now. I'm not going to leave you hanging. You aren't going to be a part of the old regime. You are a part of the new era and where we are going. And that is what I asked everyone when I first met with the team. Unfortunately, a lot of the players were on their way out and there was not much that I could do. I didn't have any animosity towards them and there wasn't any friction. They were all very pleasant and I thought that they were great kids. But the ones that stayed, I told them to give me a chance and I am going to work my butt off for you so that you can have a great experience. I told the seniors that I really wanted them to go out feeling good and proud of themselves. And for the kids coming in, they understand the pressure but at the same time they understand the opportunity."

"Talk about a blessing in disguise. You don't want anybody to get injured but it really worked out for me. She has been phenomenal. She has been my number one advocate in the locker room as far as the returners are concerned. She totally bought in from Day One. She is not fully on the court yet, but she will be back and we expect great things from Shandricka."

"Showtime. They call her Big Ticket for a reason. She is just super talented. She can do multiple things, from shooting the three, to posting up, handling the ball in transition. She has also helped with the transition, which was key when I found out that she was leaving Jacksonville. Here is someone that understands me, knows what I am about, and has been great for the locker room as well. She is super talented. Her footwork is almost like (Hakeem) Olajuwon. She understands her mismatch and understands your deficiencies. If you're taller, she is going to pull you out and expose you that way. And if you are undersized, she definitely uses her size as power. She is no stranger to the SEC, last year she played Alabama, and she was four for five from the three-point line. And she is really committing this year, more than ever, to getting into top shape."

"Crystal Allen is an ultimate competitor. She has been doing great, really taking on a leadership role because the returners were kind of young. Crystal has been phenomenal for us. And Shannon Dozier is another junior college product that is coming in, and you can tell that she has played the game before. She understands what it takes."

"I'm not really a showtime coach, but I do allow my players to play free within assignments. I think that is my experience from coaching the national team in the Bahamas and having to coach that level of talent. You can't limit them. You have to let them play their game, but you have to have the talent as well. Right now, the challenge for me is focusing on structure for the ones that may not be at that high of a level of talent, so that they can be successful in balancing the ones that are super talented, and allowing them to play free within their assignments."

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