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Canadian Tour meaningful experience for Blue Raider roundballers

September 6, 2005 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee returned from its Canadian Tour with a 3-1 record but the most positive experience was not the success the Blue Raiders enjoyed on the hardwood, but the head start it afforded fourth-year Head Coach Kermit Davis' youngest squad.

The Labor Day trip to Toronto provided Middle Tennessee with some much-needed playing time as a squad and allowed them additional practice time prior to the tour, qualities which should benefit a team that includes nine newcomers and just three returning players with substantial playing time.

"The trip was the best thing we have done for our team since I've been here and it could not have come at a better time with as many new players as we have," Davis said. "I really think we made a lot of progress. I think what was really good about this trip was we were able to show them the whole picture, not everything we do obviously, but a lot of things we do offensively. Now our individual skill development that is about to take place before preseason practice starts will allow them to see how it fits into the overall scheme, offensively and defensively.

"Now we need to teach these younger guys and try to improve the older guys in terms of a better base of how to play, foot work, just a lot of small things that you need to do to be good players."

On the court, Middle Tennessee beat McMaster (75-69), lost to York (77-71), and wrapped up the trip with wins against Guelph (79-61) and Humber (80-49), but it was more what Davis saw within each game rather than what the scoreboard read that was more appealing to the eye.

The Blue Raiders utilized the services of every player who made the trip and the scholarship players averaged double figures in every game as Davis and his staff worked to get a true evaluation of each player by seeing him for extended minutes.

"Even the game we lost we played 11 or 12 and put five new guys in at a time, and we let several freshmen play at the end so that was good, too," Davis said. "Everybody had their good moments and everybody had their poor moments. Some had more poor moments than others. We hit them pretty good for a week in practice, not like it would be in a regular practice session, but they had to overcome some fatigue and soreness. I thought the games really helped us. We were not as good early but we got better as the trip went and even the last game we really competed hard."

Davis said junior newcomer Tim Blue, who transferred to Middle Tennessee from Indian River Junior College in 2004 and sat out last season, was the team's most consistent player.

"Tim Blue had a lot of good moments," Davis said. "He listens and he seems like he really wants to be coached. He is receptive to coaching and if he will do that he will be a very good player."

Davis liked the overall play of returners Fats Cuyler, Brian Lake, who is coming off a medical redshirt, Marcus Morrison and Kyle Young, on the whole, but said lessons were learned during the four-game tour, and he expects to see the players show improvements leading into the preseason practice schedule.

"Marcus Morrison, in my opinion, was very disappointing for the first couple of games," Davis said. "He played better in the third game because he rebounded the ball and his intensity level was better in the fourth game. Fats Cuyler was solid. He is a great shooter but he needs to be a real, real good player even when he doesn't make (3-pointers) because he can impact a game in other ways.

"Kyle Young was consistent. I think Kyle needs to really be a lot better defender around the post. He is a guy we have to count on to do that but he was more aggressive offensively and he showed more confidence offensively, which was good. I thought he and Fats really provided good leadership on the trip. Brian Lake played really well the first game and then he didn't rebound the ball the last two games so we have to keep bringing him along."

Freshmen and transfers also had some good moments and were able to get their feet wet in a college basketball game and whether or not it counted, the experience should prove invaluable because the Blue Raiders will have to rely on several of them during the upcoming season.

"Kevin Kanaskie was a lot better earlier in the trip. The last game he kind of wore down a little. He has to improve defensively but he really shared and shot the ball well. Theryn Hudson was steady. He is a big kid who needs to be more athletic in a basketball stance but he did some nice things. Calvin O'Neil really struggled with his conditioning. We couldn't get a great evaluation because after about three trips he's tired, but he did play better in the last game.

"Deno Hair and Darren Avery were really nervous early and then it seemed like they settled in as we started playing. Bud Howard had some good moments but we have to continue working on being more consistent. All in all, we saw a lot of good things and the experience was definitely something our team needed."

One player Davis was excited about seeing in game situations was junior Adam Vogelsberg, but the sharp-shooting guard suffered an injury during practice last Friday morning and could not make the trip. Vogelsberg is expected to miss 3-to-4 weeks.

"Adam really needed the trip and he desperately wanted to play," Davis said. "He is a tough guy but we have to be very conservative with that injury. I think his rehab will be fine."

The Blue Raiders will resume workouts next week as they begin individual development and college basketball teams are now permitted to hold 5-on-5 workouts for two hours per week leading up to the start of preseason practice in October.

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