Johnson has reached 'comfort level' at Middle Tennessee

Preseason basketball notebook

October 26, 2007 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Once Nigel Johnson reached a comfort level on the basketball court after transferring from Tallahassee Community College last season, Middle Tennessee's fortunes changed on the hardwood.

It appears Johnson has carried that level of confidence and solid play over into this season based on the outset of preseason hoops practice.

"Nigel has been solid in our practices," Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis said. "He has had high energy and he has shown improvement from last season and he finished up real strong for us. Anyone who watched our team will tell you what a difference Nigel made down the stretch and you can see that in the workouts. He has been consistent in his approach to practice every time out."

Johnson is a combo-guard who has displayed an outstanding ability to run the team if he's placed at the point and his quickness and defense are certainly an asset; however, Johnson has exhibited a scoring knack and demonstrated a sweet shooting touch in this fall camp.

"I just feel more comfortable all around at the start of this season and that has shown in my practice," Johnson said. "It took awhile to make the transition last year after playing one year of junior college basketball and then transferring but I feel like it's all coming together this year."

MAKING THE TRANSITION: Davis expects Broderick Gilchrest and Josh Sain to earn minutes during their freshman seasons and each has shown promise in the first two weeks of preseason practice but they know it's a grind and they are learning there is a difference from the high school to college level.

"For me the biggest difference has been the physical part of the game," Sain said. "Practices are much more physical and it is faster. I've been expecting the long practices and hard practices but it is different. I get excited every day we have a practice because I know it is one less day until we get to play our first game. The season is going to be very exciting."

Sain has made quite an impact on the court at the outset of preseason practice and he turned heads with his play in last week's Blue-White scrimmage when he hit 3-of-4 3-pointers and nailed 5-of-7 field goals overall.

Gilchrest also has had his shining moments in practice and his defensive intensity has been a strong suit. He sees tempo and intensity as two of the biggest differences from high school.

"There is a major difference from high school to college," Gilchrest said. "The intensity level is much higher than it was in high school. You can't take plays off here and the tempo has to stay high. The tempo of the game has been the biggest change for me.

"Our practices have been intense and everybody is competing non-stop. That's how players get better. I think our defense is very good and we should have a good defensive team."

Davis said he has seen improvement with each of his heralded freshmen in the initial practices as they work through the adjustment process. He realizes it's an on-going process and says Gilchrest and Sain have to realize it, too; however, the veteran coach also points out that juniors Demetrius Green and Uriah Hethington fall into the mix as players on the court practicing at this level for the first time.

Green transferred and sat out last season while Hethington transferred this season.

"I think the biggest thing for them is the pace, just from the tempo from every drill and the pace you have to go and if you don't go at that pace then you are ineffective," Davis said. "It's something they have to get used to and I see improvement with each practice. Broderick has been consistent and if Josh, Uriah, and Demetrius keep that kind of attitude and continue to be that receptive to coaching they are going to be fine."

ON THE PANEL: Kermit Davis is on the voting panel for the Mid-Major Top 25 poll for the 2007-08 season. The CollegeInsider.Com Mid-Major Top 25 is now in its ninth season of existence. The Mid-Major poll is made up of teams from the following conferences: America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Independents, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Continent, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Sun Belt and West Coast.

EXHIBITION ACTION: Middle Tennessee will face Lincoln Memorial in its only exhibition game of the preseason, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m. at Murphy Center. The Blue Raiders will have a special program on this evening to honor the memory of Dr. Aaron Todd, a longtime professor at Middle Tennessee who spearheaded "Operation: Full House," which helped establish a new single-game attendance record of 11,807 against Western Kentucky Feb. 26, 2004.

SEASON TICKETS ON SALE: Fans may purchase Middle Tennessee men's basketball tickets by calling the Middle Tennessee Ticket Office at 1-888-YES-MTSU or (615) 898-2103. This year's season ticket package features a record 17 games, including the Dec. 15 contest against Memphis at the Sommet Center in Nashville, as well as the second game of the doubleheader pitting Western Kentucky and Tennessee. The season-ticket package also includes all six games of the First Shot Exempt Tournament (Nov. 15-17). Price for the package is $140. Fans may also purchase the Blue Raider Combo Pack, which includes season tickets for both the men's and women's teams, for $210 per season ticket.

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