OLE MISS MAY HAVE FILLED TWO TOP RECRUITING PRIORITIES
By Chris Burrows
OXFORD Rob Evans and his assistant coaches at Ole Miss had two recruiting priorities. On paper, the group believes the mission was accomplished this week.
“We had to address our post situation and we wanted to sign a good player from this area,” Evans said. “We believe this class reflects both of those goals we wanted to accomplish.”
In the post area, the Rebels signed Anthony Burks, a 6-foot-8, 275-pounder from Little Rock, Ark. and Oliver Morton, a 6-10, 250-pounder from Gatlinburg, Tenn.
From Northeast Mississippi, the Rebels signed Lataryl Williams, a 6-5, 185 big guard-small forward from Oxford. Williams was a Daily Journal All-Area selection and made every postseason all-tournament team.
Assistant coach Russ Pennell said, “In our minds, we thought Lataryl was very underrated on a statewide basis. That happens sometimes, but we didn’t want to overlook this kind of athlete, especially in our own backyard.”
Williams averaged 15.3 and 6.8 rebounds for the Chargers, who won the Division 1-4A and North Mississippi Tournament titles before falling in the state tournament semifinals. Williams had 34 points against eventual state champ Canton.
The signing of Burks and Morton becomes more crucial since the season-ending injury to sophomore forward Anthony Boone. Surgery was performed last month on Boone’s right knee, after he had surgery on his left knee the previous season.
Burks becomes the fifth signee from Arkansas in the past three years a state the Rebels have recruited hard. Starters Anthony Boone, Keith Carter and Jason Smith, as well as reserve Hunter Carpenter were Arkansas prep products that have played well at Ole Miss.
Burks, a three-time All-State selection, averaged 19 points and 13 rebounds and led his team to the Class 4A state title. He is listed in two Arkansas newspapers as one of the state’s top five players.
He is also listed by game programs and Arkansas newspaper accounts as weighing anywhere from 270 to 310 pounds. He turned down a college football scholarship to Oklahoma State to play college basketball.
“His body reminds you of (former Florida standout forward) Dametri Hill. Anthony’s only going to get better,” Evans said. “It’s obvious he’s big and strong, but he has great hands. He can help us right away.”
Morton wasn’t as highly-touted and wasn’t heavily recruited by Tennessee, just down the road 30 miles. However, Morton has grown seven inches in three years and has started at off-guard, forward and center, respectively, in those years.
“Oliver handles the ball well for a guy his size and has excellent touch from outside,” Evans said. “He runs extremely well for a big man and has ball-handling skills you don’t see in 6-10 freshmen. And it appears to us he’s still growing.”
The Rebels haven’t ruled out the possibility of adding another signee in the post area. Results are still pending on the decision of potential recruits, as well as the prognosis for Boone’s recovery.
“We’re still working to sign players,” Evans said. “We’re still open to looking for help in certain areas of our program. But we’re excited about this class.”