Ole Miss head basketball coach Andy Kennedy announced the Rebels’ newest signing class, which features two high school standouts and a pair of junior college transfers.
Serrel Smith, Anthony Higgs, Brian Halums and Zach Naylor all signed their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday and will join the Rebels for the 2018-19 season.
“We are excited about the quality of young men we are bringing into our program,” said Kennedy. “My staff has done an outstanding job in evaluating four tremendous prospects that fill the needs created by the exit of our four seniors from this year’s team. All four signees not only complement one another in their style of play, but they also complement the returning players currently on our roster.”
A 4-star recruit by ESPN.com, Smith hails from St. Petersburg, Florida and is the No. 11 combo guard in the country. The 6-3 Smith earned Pinellas County Player of the Year honors as a junior after averaging 27.3 points, six rebounds and five assists per contest. One of his biggest games came versus perennial powerhouse Oak Hill Academy and current Rebel freshman Devontae Shuler; Smith showcased his playmaking ability against some of the nation’s best competition by dropping 39 points for St. Petersburg High School that night. Entering his final season before joining the Rebels next year, Smith is on pace to become the school’s all-time leading scorer while contending as a frontrunner for player of the year honors in the Sunshine State. Coached by Chris Blackwell at St. Petersburg, Smith also played with the Showtime Ballers AAU program.
“After seeing Serrel play on the AAU circuit last spring, he became a top priority for us in this recruiting class,” Kennedy noted. “Serrel is a 6-3, long, combo guard who is a natural scorer. His length and instincts also make him a very capable defender. Serrel plays with a great tempo and understanding of the game. He comes from a great family and plays for an outstanding high school coach, so we feel he will be ready to make an immediate impact in our backcourt next season!”
Giving Ole Miss a boost in the frontcourt will be Higgs, a 6-8 forward out of Perry Hall High School in Baltimore, Maryland. A 3-star prospect, Higgs is a versatile lefty that can play either the three or four spot. As a junior, he averaged 15.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game en route to helping his team capture the 4A State Championship, the first state title in school history. Higgs also collected first team all-metro honors by the Baltimore Sun. With Perry Hall graduating eight players from last year, Higgs emerges as a leader for the school’s state title defense this season. He is coached by George Panageotou at Perry Hall and played AAU with Team Melo.
“Anthony is a 6-8 versatile forward who can play either forward position due to his size and skill set,” said Kennedy. “He has a ‘nose for the ball’ which makes him an outstanding rebounder, and he is equally comfortable facing the basket or playing in the post. Anthony plays in a very competitive league and helped lead his high school to its first-ever state championship last year. We are confident that Anthony is going to do big things at Ole Miss!”
Not only did the Rebels increase their depth at guard with the signing of Smith, they also added another in Halums. A 6-5 guard out of Hollandale, Mississippi, Halums averaged 17.3 points and a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game as a freshman for Itawamba Community College. In 22 games, he shot 55.1 percent from the floor and made 44.8 percent from three-point range (53rd nationally). Alongside current Rebel forward Bruce Stevens, Halums earned a spot on the NJCAA All-Region 23 team. He also earned first team MACJC All-State accolades. Halums opened up this season last Thursday, tallying 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting to lead Itawamba to a 73-61 win over Wallace-Selma. His coaches are former Ole Miss assistants Grant Pate (2003-04, 2006) and Eric Bozeman (1999-2005).
“The first thing that jumps out at you when you watch ‘Scooter’ (Halums) play is his tremendous athleticism — he is a high-level athlete,” said Kennedy. “Brian had an outstanding freshman season playing for a former Ole Miss coach in Grant Pate at ICC. Grant told us early on that he believed Scooter could be an SEC player, and he was right. Brian’s athleticism, coupled with his hard-nosed approach, make him a guy we feel can help us in a multitude of ways.”
Naylor is another player looking to bring his success at the junior college level with him to Ole Miss. As a freshman at Weatherford College under head coach Mark Osina, Naylor led the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference in scoring by averaging 20.0 points per game (25th nationally). He eclipsed the 30-point plateau on three occasions, including a 34-point outburst versus Western Texas. The Houston, Texas, native nearly averaged a double-double throughout his debut season, hauling down 9.1 rebounds per contest. His 197 rebounds through 26 games ranked 20th in the country. The 6-8 forward also displayed his versatility by shooting at a 41.5 percent clip from beyond the arc. He opened this season with 24 points and 12 rebounds versus Howard College.
“Zach is an ultra-talented forward who also had an outstanding freshman season in the always competitive NTJCAC,” mentioned Kennedy. “Zach is a player that can play a number of different positions because of his combination of size, athleticism and basketball skills. He can rebound (9 per game as a freshman), make the ‘3’ (42% as a freshman) and create off the dribble. Losing two quality players in our front court after this season made signing a high-level JC forward a priority for us in this class, and we feel we did just that by adding Zach to our program.”
While these four newcomers will have to wait a year to take the court Rebels, Ole Miss will begin the 2017-18 season Friday night (Nov. 10) against Louisiana. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at The Pavilion at Ole Miss as part of a doubleheader with the women’s basketball team. Tickets can still be purchased by going to OleMissTix.com or by calling the ticket office at (662) 915-7167.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Basketball
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