Three Prep Standouts Sign With Blue Raider HoopsNovember 11, 2004 · MT Media Relations
Joining the Blue Raiders in the 2005 signing class are Darren Avery, a 6-foot-3 guard from Corinth, Miss., Deno Hair, a 6-foot-8 power forward from Picayune, Miss., and Kevin Kanaskie, a 6-foot-2 guard from State College, Pa. The trio joins Tim Blue, a transfer who will become eligible for the Fall, 2005 semester.
"We feel very good about the three high school players that we have signed in November," Davis said. "I think we have fulfilled our needs at the point, in the perimeter and with a quality inside player to go along with Tim Blue. We feel this class has great character, good work ethic, and will add to the foundation of good, young players in our program."
Avery is the No. 6 rated prep prospect in the state of Mississippi and helped guide Corinth High School to a 29-3 record and a Class AAA state runner-up finish in 2002, losing in the state championship game to Prentiss High School and star center Al Jefferson, who was the Boston Celtics first-round draft pick. During the last two seasons, Avery has averaged 14.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists, while shooting a sizzling 52 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range.
"Darren Avery is one of the hardest-playing guys we saw all summer," Davis said. "He has great toughness, great character and can really defend. He has to play inside in high school and he plays for one of the best high school coaches in Mississippi in David Robbins. I think when he gets to our level and gets a chance to play more on the perimeter, he's going to develop into a very good playmaker."
Robbins says his star recruit's style of play and defensive intensity helped make him an attractive prospect during the recruiting process.
"The fact that he has a strong body and plays so hard is what so many people are impressed with," Robbins said. "Plus, he plays his best ball in open areas, running the floor and keeping under control in an up-tempo style. I've had college coaches see Darren and say, 'I haven't seen anybody play as hard as him."
Avery said he felt like Middle Tennessee was a perfect fit for him during his official visit to campus in September.
"I was around some of the players and they all made me feel like I was already part of the team," Avery said. "I was signing some autographs, and meeting a lot of people, and it just felt right. It seemed like there were a lot of good people that cared about the team. Plus, I think coach Davis is a great guy. He has impressed me a lot."
Hair averaged 12 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals as a junior at Picayune Memorial High School as a junior. He was named to the Mississippi "Dandy Dozen," which includes the 12 best prep players in the state. HoopScoop Online also named Hair among its top 12 seniors in Mississippi, where he joins fellow signee Avery on the list.
"Deno is another player who plays for one of the very best high school coaches in Mississippi in Dean Shaw," Davis said. "Deno has made so much progress over the last couple of years. He's 6-foot-8, he's slender, about 185, 190 pounds, but he bench presses around 220 pounds, which is really good for his weight. He plays extremely hard, runs the floor every time, and can shoot it to 17-18 feet. I think Deno will have a very good senior year. He has a very good work ethic and has been well-coached. I believe, in time, he will come in and have a very good career."
Hair said he felt at home and wanted at Middle Tennessee during his official visit to campus and the decision to become a Blue Raider was an easy one.
"Middle Tennessee is a great program, and I felt like all the coaches gave me more attention than other schools did," Hair said. "When I made my visit there it seemed like a place where I could fit in and where people wanted me."
Shaw said Hair's best days are ahead of him. The strong prospect has been playing competitively for three years and was cut from his eighth-grade team.
"He couldn't even hold a basketball when he came to us as a freshman," Shaw said. "He was cut from his eighth-grade team, and he couldn't shoot, couldn't handle the ball well at all. It was just an enormous amount of hard work and maturity on his part that got him to where he is now."
Kanaskie brings tremendous skills to the Blue Raider program and is a true point guard with a knack for making those around him better. His dad, Kurt, is a former Division I head coach at Drake University and is currently an assistant at Penn State. Kurt Kanaskie also played for the Golden State Warriors.
"We really wanted to get a quality high school point guard in our freshman class, and Kevin is a guy who has played point guard his whole life," Davis said. "I thought he was one of the best decision makers that we saw all summer. He took a good AAU team and, I thought, made them very good. He played against very good competition, he's tough, and he has a great pedigree from his dad. I think Kevin needs strength but he has all the intangibles to run a team."
Kanaskie actually made his verbal commitment to Middle Tennessee before taking an official visit, but he said he was sold on the program from the beginning.
"I'm sold on the program and coach Davis," Kanaskie said. "I think they're going to be a real good team for the next several years, and I wouldn't go there if I didn't think they had a good shot at getting to the NCAA Tournament. I like the direction the program is heading in."
With the three high school signings Wednesday, Davis has stood by his philosophy of bringing prep players into the program in order to build a strong base. Kyle Young, Alex Weekes, Keith Christmas, Bryan Smithson and Brian Lake are former prep standouts who are either in their second or third year in the program, while the recent addition of three high school signees give Middle Tennessee eight players who were signed out of high school.
"You are trying to stagger your classes and, at the same time, develop good young players in your program," Davis said. "I do believe you have to do it with a high school base and now you have (eight) of 13 scholarship guys in the program who are high school kids and that's the only way you get a long-term base to your team. All of these guys will go through adjustments at our level, but I think that's the right way to do it here. We may take another junior college player in this class later but we feel good about this group coming in, being good guys and doing well at this level."
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