Photo by Hays Collins

Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis’ men’s basketball program could get a boost if his latest verbal commitment – Callaway rising senior Daeshun Ruffin – follows in the footsteps of other Jackson Public School alumni who went on to have great careers at Ole Miss.

         Justin Reed, David Sanders and Aaron Harper – known as the Provine Posse – helped Ole Miss to the NCAA Sweet 16 and a No. 9 final national ranking in 2001. Reed, who passed away in 2017 from cancer, went on to lead the SEC in scoring as a senior and was a second round NBA draft pick. And Ole Miss’ latest JPS alumnus, Provine’s Jarvis Summers, was a second-team All-SEC pick and winner of the Howell Trophy, given to the best college player in Mississippi, as a junior in 2014.

         Ruffin, considered one of the top guards in the country and the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard All-Metro Jackson Player of the Year, had narrowed his college choices to six SEC schools – Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU – a few weeks ago. But Wednesday, Ruffin announced he was going to be a Rebel.

         “Ole Miss was a great fit for me,” Ruffin told Mississippi Scoreboard. “It gave me that family feeling since Day One.”

The semifinals of the MHSAA State Basketball Tournament on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, Miss. Photo by Chris Todd

         Ole Miss was Ruffin’s only official visit. He had taken unofficial visits to Alabama, Auburn and LSU.  

         The 5-foot-9 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. He is rated the No. 38 overall player and No. 4 point guard in the country and No. 1 player in Mississippi by 247 Sports. 

         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 this past 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.

         “I improved this year by making better decisions on my shot attempts and also understood the game and how to be effective on and off the ball,” Ruffin said. “Our state championship was an effort from every person on the roster. It started way back in August of last year. Everybody decided that we were going to do what it takes despite egos and everything. Team effort for sure.

         “The atmosphere was really crazy in every out of state game and to be able to showcase my talent and my teammates talent and abilities was great.”

         Sanders, who is also Ruffin’s coach at Callaway, was in Ruffin’s shoes in the late 1990s. A 6-3 guard, Sanders was the 1998 Mississippi Player of the Year and led Provine to a 37-1 record, the 5A state title and a No. 25 ranking in the final USA Today national Top 25 poll before going to Ole Miss. 

         “Daeshun really matured as a player this year. He understood when to take shots and when to pass,” Sanders said. “He learned how to beat defenses and double teams and become an unstoppable force. Daeshun is on another level. He is on his way to being a McDonald’s All-American.”

         Sanders compares Ruffin to two Jackson Public School greats, former McDonald’s All-American and NBA star Monta Ellis of Lanier, who many consider the greatest player to come out of JPS and Mississippi, and former two-time Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year Andre Stringer, Forest Hill’s career scoring leader. Ellis is the only player in JPS history to jump from high school to the NBA and Stringer went on to be a double figure scorer at LSU. 

The semifinals of the MHSAA State Basketball Tournament on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, Miss. Photo by Chris Todd

         Ruffin has 2,177 career points with one year to go. That ranks him third in Callaway history behind Malik Newman (3,108) and Deville Smith (2,538). Ellis scored a JPS high of 4,167 career points. 

         Ruffin scored a career-high 50 points, hitting 11 of 14 from 3-point range, in an 83-47 victory over Ridgeland as a sophomore last season. Ruffin didn’t start because it was Senior Night and played only two and half quarters.

         “Daeshun’s lateral movement and quickness are the basketball’s version of Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs,” Sanders said. “His ball-handling skills are like (All-NBA guard) Kyrie Irving and he’s as explosive as (former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook). I have seen Daeshun finish over 7-footers with ease. I have never seen anyone with the ability to consistently slow him down one-on-one. He was the second leading scorer on the 17-and-under EYBL circuit last year and was the only player on the whole circuit getting double teamed.”

         Ruffin did all of this without having a home gym to practice and play games in. The Callaway gym, on the school’s campus on Beasley Road in Northeast Jackson, was being renovated during the basketball season. The Chargers practiced at Rowan Middle School and played their home games at Northwest Jackson Middle School, both schools about 10-12 miles from Callaway. 

You May Also Enjoy