Sidekick Landed

Howard College point guard Sam Finley didn’t know much about Ole Miss until the Rebels started heavily pursuing him late in the recruitment process.

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He knows plenty now.

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Finley, who visited Ole Miss officially over the weekend, committed Sunday night, becoming the fifth addition to the class of 2016. He joins Donte Fitzpatrick, Rasheed Brooks, Terence Davis and J.T. Escobar.

“I knew about Marshall Henderson, and of course I knew about (Ole Miss guard Stefan) Moody this year. He’s killing it,” Finley said. “They were recruiting me pretty heavy towards the end of my recruitment, and when they brought me in for the visit, I really liked it. I was really comfortable with it and the coaching staff and players. I made my decision when I got back.”

Finley said he chose the Rebels over Creighton, Tulane, North Carolina Central, Bowling Green and “a couple West Coast schools.” Arizona State showed interest as well.

The opportunity for immediate playing time, according to Finley, set the Rebels apart. Ole Miss lost five players to graduation, including guards Jarvis Summers, Ladarius White and Terence Smith. The Rebels were 21-13 last season, their season coming to a close with a loss to Xavier in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

“Them losing two seniors in the back court that were playing heavy minutes and handling the ball was definitely a drawing point,” he said. “(Ole Miss head) Coach (Andy) Kennedy wanted to bring me in, try to handle the ball, try to provide some scoring and help win games.

“Moody’s going to be doing a lot of scoring next year. He needs somebody to come in there and help them out.”

Finley was described by a source familiar with Ole Miss’ recruiting efforts as a “smooth, scoring point guard” with “a great feel” for the game and “natural leadership skills.” He averaged roughly 18 points per game in leading Howard College to a second place NJCAA finish last season. He was named All-Conference.

Finley played one season at UC Riverside prior to junior college, leading the Highlanders in Big West Conference play with 15.2 points per game. He led or tied the team lead in scoring six times, and was named the BWC Sixth Man of the Year by College Hoops Daily.

“I’m really going to try to work on my defense all summer,” Finley said. “I know it’s a different level guarding guys in the SEC. I really want to work as hard as I can on my defense so I’ll be good on the ball next year.”

And his overall goal for his debut season is simple.

“I’d really like to get into the Sweet Sixteen next year,” he said.

The spring signing period for basketball begins April 16 and runs through Aug. 1.

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