Davis Era Tips Off Friday NightNovember 21, 2002 · MT Media Relations
The Kermit Davis era of Blue Raider basketball tips off at 7 PM on Friday night against East Carolina, giving Middle Tennessee a tough test in its home opener.
The Pirates are coming off a 12-18 season in their first year as a Conference USA member, but the ECU record is a bit misleading. The team played well down the stretch after getting back the services of 6-8 forward Gabriel Mikulas, who was ruled ineligible for the team's first 13 games for NCAA infractions. The Pirates rallied with Mikulas back in the fold, beating Louisville and Marquette in the season's closing weeks.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Blue Raiders in the game will come inside the paint. ECU's front line has been rated among the best in C-USA and features a formidable figure in 6-6 junior forward Erroyl Bing. Bing averaged 12.6 points and 8.7 rebounds as a sophomore, putting him among the league's elite rebounders.
Also presenting a big obstacle down low is 6-10 center Moussa Badiane. The Les Ulis, France, product led the league in blocks with 87 in his freshman campaign and his average of 3.6 swats per contest ranked him in the top five nationally.
Davis said, "They have nice size and very good experience throughout their team. Any time you have your returning point guard and your entire front line back, you have to feel good. They got some big wins last year and this should be like playing against one of the best teams in the Sun Belt for our opener."
Helping the Blue Raider cause in the game is the fact that the team is slowly regaining players from injury. Forwards William Pippen and John Humphrey are back in the lineup after missing time with flu-like symptoms over the past week. Both have also dealt with nagging injuries that have kept them in the training room for a good portion of the preseason.
Center Napoleon Rhodes also appears to be rounding into playing shape. The Ocala, Fla., native went down with a back problem during the early part of the preseason and missed the first four weeks of workouts. Rhodes showed signs of things to come with a double-double performance in the team's final exhibition game.
"We have had William and John for about three straight days of practice, which is about as much as we have had them" Davis said. "Napoleon still hasn't gotten through a full practice yet. He's getting better, but as far as quality, he can probably only play 15 to 18 good minutes."
The Blue Raiders will look to continue their improvement with the season opener. After a shaky exhibition debut, the team rallied to convincingly defeat VASDA in the finale. Davis indicated that he was pleased with the team's progress to that point, but the process will continue against the Pirates.
"I think we've made progress. I'm not trying to harp on the injuries, but for a first-year program, its really hurt us. With Pippen out for eight or nine days, and Humphrey out eight or nine days, and Napoleon out three or four weeks, we just couldn't get all of the guys here. I think as these guys get healthy and we keep getting guys back, we'll see this team really improve over the next two or three weeks. We've just got to hold this team together and, hopefully, we'll be playing our best basketball at the end of February and the first of March."
Glasper Injured: Guard Derek Glasper, who missed nearly all of last season with a knee injury, sustained a severe ankle sprain in practice earlier this week and is expected to miss two to three weeks. Glasper played in only two games last year before opting for season-ending knee surgery.
Kermit's Krazies: The new student support group for men's basketball, "Kermit's Krazies," will hold its first session of the year Friday night. Any student can become a member by signing up at each home game. The Krazies will all have reserved seating at the games as long as they wear their official Kermit's Krazies t-shirt, which they receive upon taking the official Kermit's Krazy pledge. More details will be given out at the home games and at Friday's pep rally in the Murphy Center.
SportsNight on Campus: SportsNight with George Plaster, Blake Fulton, and Joe Biddle, will emanate from the track level of the Murphy Center from 4-7 PM on Friday. Head Coach Kermit Davis is scheduled to appear on the show along with football coach Andy McCollum, women's basketball coach Stephany Smith, and AD Boots Donnelly. Other surprise guests may appear, as well. Come out and show the midstate what Blue Raider athletics is all about with a raucous showing during the broadcast!
Alumni Association Hosting Reception: The Middle Tennessee Alumni Association is hosting a Tip Off Reception prior to the ECU game in Auxiliary Gym #2 from 6-7 PM. The reception is free and open to the public. The event is designed to get fan support started for the upcoming season and to welcome the new Blue Raider coaching staff to the Middle Tennessee family.
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