Rebounding, defense focus for men's basketball
Preseason camp notebookOctober 22, 2008 · Athletic Communications
Blue Raider head coach Kermit Davis wants to see those areas ingrained within his team from the outset this year and it is evident from the initial preseason practices.
"We always spend a lot of time on defense and rebounding in our practices and the emphasis is there now," senior guard Nigel Johnson said. "We realize we have a chance to be a very good basketball team this season but solid rebounding and defense is going to give us a chance to be a great team this season. We understand the importance of those areas and we are working hard to make strides there during these workouts."
Johnson has been a beast on the boards in preseason practices and proved to be one of the better rebounding guards in the Sun Belt last season. He pulled a career-high 12 rebounds in the SBC quarterfinals against Troy last season and had six rebounds or more in 10 games. Senior guard Demetrius Green also gives the Blue Raiders a board boost from the perimeter.
"We have good rebounding guards and Nigel has shown a lot of energy in that area with consistency at each practice," Davis said. "I want to see us be a team that takes great pride in getting every rebound and we are slowly getting there but we are not where we need to be yet. We have to reach the point where we bring it each day at practice and it becomes a mentality and not just something we are trying to do because it's the drill we are working on at the time."
Davis said he believes the team is ahead of where it was last year defensively and he sees a collection of players that provide the depth that should allow the Blue Raiders to create additional problems for opposing teams.
"We are a lot further along right now defensively, especially our older guys," Davis said. "I think we are going to be able to pressure the ball and do those things better earlier in the season. I'm encouraged by that."
GETTING EVERYONE INVOLVED
The Blue Raiders have generally been an outstanding passing team under Davis and point guards Kevin Kanaskie and Johnson have led the way in sharing the ball and getting everyone involved in the offense.
Nothing should change on that front in 2008-09. In fact, Davis believes this could be his best passing team at Middle Tennessee if not one of the best groups he has coached in regard to sharing the rock.
"I think it's one of the best passing teams I have been around," Davis said. "The players are really unselfish, players make the extra pass and we are better off the dribble so that's very encouraging."
Speaking of passing, Kanaskie enters his senior season fourth all-time in assists at Middle Tennessee with 365.
FINISH WHAT YOU START
One area where Davis has not been overly pleased through the first five days of preseason practice is the team's ability to successfully get through a full practice with a high level of intensity.
Davis, entering his seventh season leading the Blue Raiders, called last Friday's first preseason practice one of the best he's been involved with at Middle Tennessee. The problem is they all haven't been that way from an effort standpoint.
"When a coach doesn't have to coach effort then coaching is fun and I didn't have to coach effort at all in that first practice," Davis said. "The next two days I had to coach effort. We came back Monday with a good practice and picked it up with a good effort (Tuesday). Our older guys are doing fine but without (Desmond) Yates and (Theryn) Hudson out right now it puts more responsibility on (newcomers) Josh Jones and Montarrio Haddock at those spots. Right now they are finding it difficult to get through practices and when they don't it hurts the overall practice.
"Our whole team is not where we need to be, obviously, and even with an experienced team - and it happens all across the country - but when we get to 5-on-5 we have a lot of drill slippage and we lose details of technique, defending and running the offense. That will improve as we continue to work through it."
There have been bright spots through the first five practices but Davis singled out the play of Kanaskie, Dino Hair and Nigel Johnson as bright spots to this point.
"Kevin has been our most solid guy right now and Dino Hair is further along than he has been at the start and we are asking him to be our best post player right now," Davis said. "Nigel has been practicing with consistency and at a high energy level. I see carry-over from the strong finish he had to help spark our team last season."
ALLEN IMPRESSIVE EARLY
Newcomer Eric Allen, a transfer from Marion Military Institute, has not surprised anyone at Middle Tennessee practices with his athleticism and all-around ability because he had displayed all of those qualities during the recruiting process.
His toughness, though, has caught Davis' attention.
"I think Eric Allen has made strides with his toughness, he's starting to rebound better and play through contact so that's very pleasing to see," Davis said. "He is a real good catch and shoot guy and he's really good athletically but getting those other areas into his game will make him a stronger, more complete player, especially in (the Sun Belt.)"
Middle Tennessee is currently without the services of Theryn Hudson (foot) and Desmond "Boogie" Yates (hamstring) but their prognosis is good.
Yates has watched the first five practices from the sideline as he rehabs a minor hamstring injury. He is expected to return to the court this week. Hudson is in the sixth week of rehab following offseason foot surgery and is expected to return to the court in November.
"Theryn is making great progress and he is right on schedule," Davis said. "Boogie is getting much better and he should be back this week. We want to be sure when Boogie comes back he is completely healthy and does not tweak that hamstring again. We look forward to getting him back. Our guys have done fine but when you take Boogie and 'T' out at the 4 and 5 you miss them; you really miss their competitiveness."
SEASON TICKET DEADLINE
The deadline to purchase season tickets for Middle Tennessee men's basketball games is Friday. Season tickets cost $140, including the Nov. 21 game versus Tennessee. A sellout is anticipated for the Tennessee game but buying a season ticket assures a seat. Season tickets may be purchased at GoBlueRaiders.com or by calling 1-888-YES-MTSU.
Tip-off for Middle Tennessee's game against Tennessee, Nov. 21, has been moved from 7 to 7:30 PM.
TIME FOR A TUNE-UP
The Middle Tennessee men's basketball team will play two exhibition games. The Blue Raiders' first tune-up will be against Cumberland, Nov. 1, at 4 p.m. The final dress rehearsal is against North Alabama, Nov. 6, at Murphy Center at 7 p.m.
Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.
More Men's Basketball NewsApr 17, 2013: Davis adds three more to signing class
Mar 29, 2013: Davis named NABC District 24 Coach of the Year
Mar 28, 2013: Knight named to NABC All-District First Team
Mar 19, 2013: Blue Raiders fall to Saint Mary's in NCAAs, 67-54
Mar 19, 2013: Day One at the NCAA First Four
Mar 18, 2013: Blue Raiders and Gaels meet in First Four of NCAA Championship