Game: Ole Miss - Alabama
Date: Feb. 11, 8 p.m.
Location: Tuscaloosa, Ala.
TV/Radio: ESPNU/Ole Miss Radio Network
A number of times this season, Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy has described his point guard, Jarvis Summers, as the Rebels' most valuable player.
His production speaks for itself.
Summers, a junior, is eighth in the Southeastern Conference in scoring at 17.4 points per game, up from 9.1 points per game as a sophomore. He's third in assists, and his 3-point percentage is best in the league. He's led Ole Miss in scoring a team-high 10 times.
He's the only player in the SEC to rank in the top-10 in the SEC in scoring and field goal percentage and top-5 in assists.
Funny thing, though, if not for a few recruiting misses some three years ago, Summers wouldn't even be in this position - as the player the Rebels simply can't live without.
"The guys like Jarvis Summers, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Kennedy, his team 16-7 (7-3 SEC) on the year, said. "He may be in somebody's top-100. He might not be.
"Those are the guys that once you have them in your program and if they really commit themselves to being as good as they can be, by the time they become a junior, they start competing at an all-league level, like Jarvis has this year."
Summers was a lightly-recruited prospect in the recruiting cycle of 2010-11. Ole Miss offered a scholarship late after going all-in and coming up short on Rashad Madden, then a four-star prospect.
Ole Miss was convinced it had Madden as late as the morning of his announcement Sept. 29, 2010. Now Madden, who averaged just 5.4 points per game over his first two years, is leading Arkansas with over 16 points per game in SEC play as a junior.
Memphis, Tenn., product Andre Hollins was Plan B. However, he opted for Minnesota. He paces the Gophers in scoring.
Ole Miss ultimately turned to Summers. Not widely known on the recruiting trail, his official visits consisted of trips to Murray State and South Alabama. His numbers weren't all that gaudy: 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists per game.
But, if nothing else, he was a winner.
"We've known Jarvis was going to be great since his freshman year," former Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway said by phone Monday. "He's stepped up to the plate, and he's playing better than I even thought, to be honest. I knew Jarvis was great, but he's done things … I've been surprised."
He has Ole Miss back in the NCAA tournament conversation. The Rebels reached the field of 68 for the first time in a decade last season, a season that saw Summers start 31 of 34 games at point guard.
The Rebels travel to face Alabama (9-14, 3-7 SEC) tonight at 8 p.m.
"Jarvis has been our most steady player," Kennedy said. "He's really had a tremendous junior year. Typically when you get a kid into your program, he's in year three, you start figuring out what you've got, and Jarvis was consistent for us in year one and two. He's really taken that next step has as a junior. He's playing with a lot of confidence."
Holloway believes Summers' confidence and newfound aggression as a scorer has come from his taking ownership. Last season, Ole Miss ran its offense through Holloway, Henderson and Reginald Buckner.
Summers was more than willing to take a back seat.
"Jarvis is a team guy," Holloway said. "Coach really wanted, with that team we had, he wanted the ball to touch inside. Touch inside, get it to Marshall. Jarvis would run the team and make sure the big guys were involved. That's what Jarvis did. He never complained about not taking the shot or anything like that. But having me and Reg gone, the presence on the inside is still good, but I don't think coach is demanding get it in there, get it in there. I think he's more demanding of Jarvis taking control of the game."
Henderson draws the headlines, but the argument could be made no player has been more valuable to Ole Miss basketball this season than Summers - the all-league-caliber player who almost wasn't.
"Marshall is a great player," Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said. "But you are making a mistake if you view them as a one-man team. Summers is as good as any guard in the league."
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)
Alabama has lost four-straight games and are 0-10 away from Coleman Coliseum this season, but 9-4 at home. Senior Trevor Releford leads Alabama averaging 18.3 points per game and has a team-high 64 assists. Rodney Cooper paces the squad pulling down 4.9 boards a game, but the Tide rank last in the SEC averaging 33.3 rebounds/game.
Tuesday's game will be the 172nd meeting between the two schools. The Crimson Tide holds a 117-54 lead in the series, which began in 1921. Ole Miss won last year's only meeting 87-83 in Oxford, but the teams have split their season series in 11 of the last 14 years.
Last year marked the first season since 1968 the two former SEC West rivals did not played a home-and-home series in the same year. The Crimson Tide hold a 70-10 lead in games played in Tuscaloosa, and Ole Miss' last win in Coleman Coliseum came in 2010 (W, 76-73). Andy Kennedy has a 7-6 career record versus the Tide.
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)
* Like most college teams, Ole Miss fares better at home (5-0) than on the road (2-3) in conference play. The Rebels shoot better from the field (.453 at home /.390 on road) and from 3-point (.419 at home /.316 on road) at home and rebound the ball better with a -5.6 rebound margin on the road and an even rebounding margin at home. Ole Miss is scoring more points at home in league games (80.2) than on the road (68.2). Junior F Aaron Jones is posting 10.2 ppg and 9.0 rpg in conference home games and just 4.0 ppg and 6.0 rpg in league road games, while freshman F Sebastian Saiz averaging 7.6 ppg and 7.6 rpg in home SEC games and just 3.8 ppg and 4.6 rpg in road games.
* Ole Miss enters Tuesday's road battle at Alabama ranked No. 53 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index (ESPN.com), while the Crimson Tide is rated No. 110. The Rebels are 4-6 against top-100 RPI teams this season including wins over LSU, Middle Tennessee, Missouri and Vanderbilt. Ole Miss picked up its first top-50 RPI win of the year Saturday against Missouri.
* Ole Miss is 7-3 in the SEC and sits in third place in the league standings after being projected to finish seventh in the preseason media poll. The Rebels are 27-10 (.730 winning percentage) over their last 37 games versus SEC opponents dating back to 2012, which is the best mark in school history. It is also one game behind Florida for the best mark in the SEC over the last 37 games. Ole Miss also tied last year's squad and the 1937-38 team with a school record 6-2 start to SEC play.