By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The path to playing time for Jimel Judon at Ole Miss next season could depend to a large degree on what he gets done away from Ole Miss this summer.
The good news for Judon, the former Myrtle standout, is that he’s carrying a big stick along that path.
In the most recent release of statistics for the Cotton States League, a local collegiate wood bat league, Judon is among the top hitters with a .342 average.
As a redshirt in his first season at Ole Miss, Judon’s chances to swing against live pitching were limited once the season got under way.
“I mostly was just hitting off the tee during the season,” he said.
Judon did get enough practice opportunities to impress Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco with mobility uncommon for a 6-foot-5, 275-pound frame.
Judon was able to take good angles and chase down balls in the outfield, but there are smaller and speedier guys who can do that.
“His playing time is going to be dictated by how well he swings,” Bianco said.
How well Judon swings will be impacted by pitch recognition, how quickly he picks up how the other guys are trying to get him out.
He also needs to improve his bat speed and get off his best swings more quickly to catch up with collegiate fastballs. He seems to be taking those steps this summer.
“It’s helped me a ton just to get here and get the at-bats,” Judon said.
As a member of the Tippah County Tribe this summer, Judon is 13 for 38. Five of his hits have gone for extra-bases, a home run and four doubles.
His .342 average ranks seventh among Cotton States hitters.
“He’s one of those kids with a lot of potential, tremendous size but also very athletic, a kid who can dunk a basketball,” Bianco said. “But coming from Myrtle it’s a pretty big jump to the SEC.”
One thing Judon didn’t have upon arrival at Ole Miss was extensive time in a strength and conditioning program.
“When he got here and got in the weight room, he just wasn’t very strong for a kid that size,” Bianco said.
In his redshirt year, Judon’s time in the weight room helped increase his strength. His time on the bench helped increase his drive.
He attributes part of his Cotton States success – it’s his second time through the league – to hard work and the eagerness to get on the field every day.
“I feel like I’ve grown substantially as a player,” he said. “Last year when I played in this league I didn’t have the numbers I do now. Just sitting on the bench this season gave me that want-to and drive to be able to hit as well as I have.”
The summer of 2011 may also give Judon the confidence that will pay off when fall workouts begin at Swayze Field.
“He has to improve offensively, and he realizes that,” Bianco said. “He’s showing the signs. You look at him in BP, and you can see the strength, the power. He’s just been too inconsistent. He’s a tremendous worker. He needed to see live pitching and get some at-bats, and he’s done pretty well.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.