Terence Davis. Breein Tyree. Devontae Shuler. The roll call is all too familiar to opposing SEC coaches and fan bases. In the three years that Kermit Davis has coached the Ole Miss Rebels, he's developed three special guards who earned All-SEC recognition.
Davis made the All-SEC second team in 2019. Tyree made the first team in 2019 and 2020, as did Shuler in 2021.
So who's got next? Welcome back, Jarkel Joiner.
"We've had some elite guards here," Davis said. "Jarkel is right in that line."
The fifth-year senior and Oxford native played his first two years of college basketball at Cal State Bakersfield, where he started 61 of 64 games, before transferring home, sitting out a transfer season and joining the Rebels' rotation a year ago. He showed glimpses of his breakout ability as Ole Miss made a late run at an NCAA Tournament bid, scoring a season-high 26 points with a career-high five 3-pointers in an SEC Tournament quarterfinal loss to LSU.
For the season, Joiner finished second on the team in scoring at 12 points a game behind his All-SEC teammate, Shuler. According to the head coach, that was just an appetizer. Joiner's growth includes an almost 3-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in practice since June and an increase in strength and durability, "playing consistently over 180 pounds" on his 6-foot-1 frame.
"It's unbelievable how much improvement he's made from this time last year," Davis said. "His leadership has even grown. He practices at such a high level. He's going to be one of the better guards in the SEC."
Joiner is a key part of what should be a more up-tempo Ole Miss team than the 16-12 edition of last season that finished 10-8 in the conference and, after just missing an at-large NCAA berth, earned a No. 1 seed in the NIT. Those offensively challenged Rebels had to grind out victories behind the SEC's best scoring defense, and they did, finishing the year 3-0 against ranked opponents.
Davis said his fourth Ole Miss team has more players who can drive the ball and shoot it from deep as the Rebels try to "stretch the floor in a better way than we did last year" and increase their number of possessions per game.
"You want to play fast, smart and unselfish," Davis said. "If you can do those things with great toughness, now you've got a great product and people want to come watch that."
Ole Miss fans will want to watch talented athletes such as Joiner and sophomore guard Matthew Murrell. How good an athlete is the 6-4, 200-pound Murrell?
"There's no better athlete at his position in college basketball," Davis said. "Run. Jump. Strength. Fast. He's got it all. We've got to see those athletic plays show up in everyday possessions. Defending. Rebounding. Running the floor. When Matt does that - Boom! - he'll jump up and be one of the elite players."
Ole Miss was picked to finish ninth in the league in preseason voting by a select panel of both SEC and national media members, but if the Rebels can blend an improved offense with a typically stout Davis defense - Boom! - they'll be off and running toward a third postseason berth in the last four years.