Southern Miss will return to the court for the first time since March on Thursday night when they host Millsaps in its lone exhibition matchup before the season starts on Nov. 14 at Memphis.
Coming off a forgetful 9-20 campaign in which the Golden Eagles were ravaged by an NCAA investigation that subsequently left them with only seven active players at times, they have a ton of questions that need to be answered.
Senior forward Norville Carey is not only the only returning starter, but the only returning impact player from a season ago. He will be leaned on heavily on both sides of the floor and will be the focal point of the offense for the first time in his career.
He averaged 10.8 points per game, 5.6 rebounds and shot 54.6 percent from the field in only 27 minutes a game. He began to expand his range last season, making five of his 17 three- pointers, but has worked harder in the offseason to make defenses have to respect him more on the perimeter.
“I can stretch the floor and make it harder for the big guys to play more on the perimeter where I can use my speed as an advantage,” Carey said. “Or if they don’t play up, I can take the shot.”
Outside of Carey, there simply is not a lot of experience on this team. However, there is one semi- experienced player that will play a huge role on this team. He just
has never played in a game as a Golden Eagle.
Sophomore transfer Khari Price was the starting point guard for the Dayton Flyers when they upset Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford i n the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago to reach the Elite 8.
Although he was not looked to as a go-to scorer or the main facilitator, he helped the team on both sides of the floor. Head coach Doc Sadler said that Price is the most talented point guard he has ever coached, noting that he understands the game like a coach.
“I really believe (Khari) Price can be as good a point guard as there is in this league,” Sadler said. “If things go the way that I think they will go, you will really enjoy watching him play the point guard position.”
“I know Neil Watson was a great point guard here and I’m sure there were some other ones, but I would put (Khari) Price up there as (being) as good as any point guard I’ve been around and coached.”
The only other certainty to be in the rotation is graduate transfer Courtlin Jackson. Jackson was with Sadler at Iowa State before Sadler became the head guy at USM.
Jackson is a heady player with good athleticism, winning Iowa State’s dunk contest last season, and has no significant weaknesses. He may not stand out or put up a ton of numbers, but he is the type of glue guy that helps teams win games.
Outside of those three players, the rest of rotation will likely be a work in progress as the season wears on.
Guys like Michael Ramey, Michael O’Donnell, Quinton Campbell and Keljin Blevins could all fills roles on this team among others. But with so many newcomers, it is hard to predict exactly what this team will look like.