By: Bennett Hipp
That search ended Monday night as Ole Miss accepted a commitment from 6-8, 250 lb. big man Bruce Stevens from Jones County Junior College.
Ranked as the No. 6 overall JUCO player by JUCORecruiting.com, Stevens averaged 16.2 points and 11.2 rebounds while shooting 51.9% from the floor and 37.5% on three-pointers this past season. According to his head coach, former Ole Miss star Rahim Lockhart, the Rebels are getting an elite player with plenty size and shooting ability.
“I think (Ole Miss) is getting is a big-time power forward that can really shoot the ball,” said Lockhart. “He was able to make his mark with his ability to really shoot the ball from three. He has a lot of range on his three-point shot. He’s just one of those guys that that type of size and shooting ability doesn’t come around often.”
“They’re losing a lot in Sebas, so I think Bruce is going to come in and definitely help take a lot of that burden that Sebas had rebounding. He’s going to be unique in his way of scoring points up because Sebas was a down-low guy, while Bruce is going to stretch the floor and be able to take advantage of mismatches with his size.”
In addition to Ole Miss, Stevens had been offered by Georgetown recently, and was receiving heavy interest from Western Kentucky, Oregon State, Mississippi State, Memphis and others. Despite the interest from schools all around the country, Stevens’ Mississippi roots and the environment he found in Oxford helped keep him in-state with the Rebels.
“Bruce is a hometown Mississippi person, foremost. Out of high school, Bruce had a chance to go to any JUCO in the nation; he’s just a special kind of player. He has a strong, tight-knit family structure that I think Ole Miss appeals to,” Lockhart said. “You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the facility Ole Miss has now. He went up for a game this past year, and he was just really impressed with the facility, the atmosphere and the crowd. I think Ole Miss has done a great job building its program with not just success on the court, but you get on campus and look at the facilities. It’s impressive.
“They’re returning a lot of players. They had a nice season this year in going to the N.I.T. Quarterfinals. I think he was able to buy into the fact that with the returning guys they have and the guys they’re bringing in, they can take it a step further.”
As Stevens begins the transition from the Junior College level to Division One basketball this summer, Lockhart believes Steven’s upbringing will help ease that transition and allow him to be someone Ole Miss can rely on during his time in Oxford.
“He comes from a beautiful background. His mom and dad are top of the line, salt of the earth type people,” said Lockhart. “He had a very humble upbringing as a child, and they put a lot of emphasis on Bruce doing the right thing. He’s not out trying to be something he isn’t.
“He wants to make his mom happy and his dad proud. He’s going to be one of those guys where you can go to sleep at night not worrying about what he’s doing.”