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Marquette grad Jake Coddington runs onto the court for Ole Miss during the ‘15-16 season. He transferred to the D-I program as a junior this year.
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Jake Coddington sensed that the University of Mississippi in Oxford would be a good place to play basketball this season. It didn’t matter to him that the Rebels didn’t have a scholarship for him.
He welcomed the challenge.
It’s easy to see why. Ole Miss is a Division I program and member of the prestigious Southeastern Conference. And Coddington, a 6-foot-6 junior forward, dreamed of playing big-time basketball in a major program. He maintained that desire after graduating from Marquette Catholic High School and then Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo.
Oh yes, there’s one other item — his girlfriend, Hannah Velloff, a Marquette grad, is attending Ole Miss.
So it was a slam dunk for Coddington and he’s thoroughly enjoying it, even if his playing time has been scant thus far. He had to do it the hard way, making the squad as a walk-on player. That task sharpened his skills and desire to succeed.
“It has been a good fit,” Coddington said recently in a phone interview. “Ever since I was little, I wanted to play at this level. So I wanted to go to Ole Miss and it has worked out for me. They (Rebels) saw me play and said they had a spot for me.
“The competition is really good and it’s fun to be a part of it and play with guys. They are very talented.”
No kidding. Ole Miss has started the season 10-3 under coach Andy Kennedy and the Rebels intend to compete for the SEC title. Coddington, 20, hasn’t garnered much time, just a few minutes in five games. Thus, he’s one of the last-to-play reserves on the 13-player roster. Nevertheless, he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
“I like it here,” said Coddington, planning to major in accounting. “People welcome you and it’s kind of a laid-back atmosphere.”
The 220-pound Coddington is doing his best to improve and impress Kennedy — and the Ole Miss assistants — for increasing his playing time.
“I want to keep playing hard and earn the coach’s trust,” Coddington said.
He did that for high school coach Steve Medford and for legendary JUCO mentor Gene Bess at Three Rivers. Bess, 80, has been guiding Three Rivers since 1971 and the Raiders have won more than 1,200 games during his distinguished career there.
“He’s a great coach and the winningest college coach in the country,” Coddington said. “He helped me a lot with fundamentals. Coach Bess really stressed defense and rebounding.”
Last season, Coddington averaged 9.1 points and 4.8 rebounds for the 23-8 Raiders. He averaged 6 points and 3 rebounds as a freshman, following a stellar high school career at Marquette. He averaged 13 points and 11 rebounds his senior season, and 11 points with 6 rebounds as a junior. The Explorers won four regional titles during the Coddington years.
Younger brother, Noah, is playing for Class 1A power Metro East Lutheran of Edwardsville this season. Dad Dan, the career scoring leader (1,582 points) at East Alton-Wood River High and a D-I player at Arkansas-Little Rock, keeps busy following the basketball exploits of both.
“I try to help Noah a little, but he has his own game. He’s more of a perimeter player,” Jake Coddington said. “My dad was a big help in teaching both of us how to play the game.”
Area basketball guru Rick Ball, who has coordinated BallStars camps since 1991, proved instrumental in encouraging Ole Miss to take a chance on Coddington. Ball holds camps in Illinois and Missouri.
“He contacted me and went to one of my basketball showcases,” Coddington said. “I had offers from other D-I schools and D-II ones, but Ole Miss is where I wanted to go.”
The jump from Marquette High to Three Rivers to Ole Miss has been an eye-opener, Coddington admitted. He has had to get better with each step.
“Since I played at Marquette, my post game has developed and I have become a much better shooter,” he said. “I also have expanded my defensive game and become a much better overall player.”
He also said playing at Ole Miss is strictly first class. That goes hand-in-hand with being a D-I player.
“There aren’t any more five- or six-hour bus rides,” Coddington said. “Now, we fly everywhere. It’s the most traveling I’ve ever done and that’s one of the coolest parts of playing here. It’s really a lot of fun.”
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