By Robert Wilson

Ole Miss men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis said his freshman point guard, McDonald’s high school All-American Daeshun Ruffin from Callaway High, is “scratching the surface” of his ability to impact the game.

That’s not good news for the rest of the Southeastern Conference.

The 5-foot-9 Ruffin scored a career-high 19 points in only 16 minutes off the bench to lead Ole Miss to a 76-68 victory over Dayton Saturday night at the SJB Pavilion, the eighth straight home victory for the Rebels.

It was the second straight game Ruffin scored as many points as minutes played. And he did it wearing a brace on his right shooting hand and having two of his fingers taped together after breaking a bone in his and being sidelines for about four weeks.

Ruffin scored 17 points in only 9 minutes in the second half, most of them breaking Dayton’s press, beating players down the court and making driving layups over, under and around bigger players or getting fouled. He scored 10 points in a 2-minute flourish midway through the second half, then made five free throws in the last 2 minutes, 38 seconds to hold off Dayton. Ruffin made 4 of 5 field goals from the field and 9 of 12 from the free throw line in the second half. 

“Daeshun is just scratching the surface,” Davis said. “He was terrific. He can get in the paint and make others better. Daeshun has only been back for five days. I’m trying to be careful and not play him too much. I was shooting for 20 minutes tonight. He’s doing a better job of competing on the defensive end. Daeshun has an unbelievable basketball IQ. I can sit and talk basketball with him. He knows what all the spots do. He gets it. He has a feel for it. He has unbelievable swagger, and he needs that when you are his size. What he can do is shoot and he hasn’t done that yet, but I know he will because I saw him do that ton in high school.”

Photo Credit: Ole Miss Athletics

“I wouldn’t say not really swagger, it’s more heart, toughness and grit,” Ruffin said. “It felt good tonight. My strength and conditioning coach (Andrew Beyke) is helping me get into tip top shape. I’m moving better.”

Dayton found that out Saturday. Time and time again, Ruffin dribbled out of full court pressure and beat players up the floor.

“With a team as good as Dayton is who applies so much pressure on the defensive side of the ball, I feel like I was a good mismatch against them,” Ruffin said. “I feel like when they’re guarding full-court, I’m a very fast guy, so I definitely gave them a little bit of trouble.”


“Daeshun’s speed is unmatchable when he has the ball in his hands and is going downhill,” said Ole Miss 7-footer center Nysier Brooks, a graduate transfer from Miami who had 16 points and 11 rebounds and benefited from two assists from Ruffin on alley-opp dunks. “He’s a pest on defense, too. He has a tremendous impact on the game and he’s even going to have more of an impact on the game when he gets his hand well and is able to shoot better.”

Ruffin played in his first game since he injured his right hand on Nov. 9 and scored a team-high 12 points in 12 ½ minutes in a 62-52 victory over Middle Tennessee State Wednesday night in Oxford.

Ruffin – the first Mississippi Player of the Year to sign with Ole Miss in 23 years – made his debut and had 4 points, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 blocked shot in a 82-61 victory over the University of New Orleans Nov. 9 in Oxford.

But Ruffin took a hard ball driving to the basket in that game and suffered a broken bone in his hand and has been sidelined until Wednesday night.

Ruffin, the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year and two-time Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Player of the Year, averaged 33.1 points, led Callaway to a 10-1 record and the Class 5A quarterfinals last season. Ruffin, rated as rated as the No. 1 player in Mississippi and No. 7 point guard in the country, also averaged 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 steals, 2.0 assists for Callaway, which won 30 straight games against Mississippi teams until losing a 90-85, double overtime decision at Lake Cormorant in the 5A quarterfinals. Ruffin’s 33.1 scoring average would have ranked sixth in the nation according to MaxPreps if he had played in enough games to qualify. He finished with 2,541 career points, second place in the storied tradition of great Callaway scorers, only behind Malik Newman, who scored 3,108 from 2011-15. 

Ruffin averaged 26.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.9 steals and led Callaway to a 25-5 record – undefeated against Mississippi teams — and the Class 5A state championship, a No. 1 Mississippi and No. 38 national final ranking by MaxPreps, this past season. Ruffin shot 50 percent from the field, 37 percent from 3-point range (averaging 2.2 per game), and 76.7 percent from the free throw line.

Ruffin burst onto the high school basketball scene as a freshman. He averaged 19.6 points and led Callaway to a 25-6 record and the Class 5A state semifinals. As a sophomore, Ruffin averaged 26.4 points and led the Chargers to a 21-8 record and the 5A state quarterfinals. He took it to another level last season. And so did Callaway, playing in showcase games across the country. Ruffin showed off his game as well. He averaged 30.1 points in eight games across the South. Ruffin had only one game below 27 points with highs of 37 points twice. Callaway had a 5-3 record against some of the best teams in the country and Ruffin going up against some of the best players in the country.

Ole Miss, 8-3, plays host to Samford Tuesday at 3 p.m. on SEC Network plus.