Breein Tyree (USA Today images)

Freshman guard Breein Tyree knows his importance to Ole Miss basketball, and he's embracing the role

Breein Tyree stills carries the classification of freshman. But the first-year Ole Miss point guard is far from a newbie anymore.

Tyree, who is readying to play in his first SEC tournament game, appeared in 29 games for the Rebels this season, including 18 starts. He’s averaging 7.2 points, 1.9 assists and 1.9 rebounds per game. 

However, his numbers don’t tell the full story.

Tyree didn’t take over as the primary point guard until Jan. 11 against Georgia due to his recovery from an ACL injury suffered as a high school senior. He’s been one of the Rebels’ most valuable players since, averaging 10.9 points and over two assists. He's scored double-digit points in four straight games.

He’s admittedly turned the ball over too much (56 on the year, 43 in his last 16 games), but he’s brought stability to the game’s premier position, and his continued development is, arguably, the most crucial to the program’s future than any other player on the roster.

“Grown up. Healthier. More confident. Starting to figure out how he can be successful,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. “The biggest thing is his physical health so he can take reps, practice harder and we depend on him playing heavier minutes and a heavier role. He realizes now he’s our point guard. He’s never been afraid of taking the big shot or playing in the big moment.

Breein Tyree (Photo credit: Associated Press)

“He came into his own in the second half against Baylor when we made that huge push. He was really the catalyst for us. He’s going to be a tremendous player. Every game he can play he’s getting more and more experience which is going to help him in the future.”

Tyree isn’t running from his growing status for the Rebels. He’s eager to lead and welcoming of as much responsibility as Kennedy is willing to throw his way — as he showed in the second half against then-No. 5 Baylor in January. Tyree scored 18 of the Rebels’ 33 second-half points on 6 of 9 from the field and 2 of 3 from 3.

No moment is too big for him. Not even the SEC tournament. No. 6-seeded Ole Miss (19-12, 10-8 SEC) is set to face either No. 11 Auburn or No. 14 Missouri Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. 

“I just take every game as a new experience and a new way of learning,” Tyree said. “This is my first experience. I’m taking it and trying to learn from it. I had a teammate back in high school, Wade Baldwin, who told me a lot about the SEC tournament. He told me I’m going to have a great time and it’s a great atmosphere. He said just enjoy it while you can.”

He has work to do yet, but whenever the season ends, Tyree will turn to the offseason and look to build on his strong finish. He’s making up for lost time, finally feeling as if he’s himself again and on path to realizing his seemingly endless potential.

This is only the beginning.

“The step I want to make to next season is become a better team player, facilitate a little bit more and look to limit my turnovers,” Tyree said. “I’ve been struggling a little bit with that lately. Just getting better as a basketball player next season and becoming a better leader.”

“I think, physically, getting stronger and his conditioning has to take a whole ‘nother step forward,” Kennedy said. “But again, here’s a guy that really didn’t play 5-on-5 basketball until November. He’s coming off a pretty serious injury. It hurt in some of those development stages. I think he can be a better shooter. His decision-making is going to get better as he continues to get more reps. But I like his size, I like his enthusiasm, I like the way he leads. I think he’s got some natural leadership traits. He’s going to be a good player for us.”

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