Men's basketball season tips off Monday at Murphy Center

Blue Raiders host Auburn-Montgomery at 7 p.m.

November 4, 2012 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Coming off a historic season that saw a program-record 27 wins, the Blue Raider men's basketball team returns to the hardwood Monday to tip off the 2012-13 campaign. Middle Tennessee will host Auburn-Montgomery in an exhibition contest beginning at 7 p.m. in Murphy Center.

Live video, audio and stats are available on GoBlueRaiders.com, with Chip Walters and Kyle Turnham on the call.

The Warhawks enter Monday's contest having already played a pair of games. AUM defeated Concordia College Selma, 63-47, on Friday before falling to Cumberland, 81-63, on Saturday. Last season, the Warhawks finished with a 5-23 record as a member of the NAIA's Southern States Athletic Conference.

AUM returns six letterwinners, including three starters from last season's team under head coach Larry Chapman. Chapman is in his 36th season at the helm of the Warhawks.

MBB vs. Auburn-Montgomery
The Blue Raiders begin the highly anticipated 2012-13 campaign with 10 of their top 12 scorers returning from last season's record-breaking squad. MT finished 27-7, marking the most wins in program history, and 14-2 in the Sun Belt, which set a school mark for league wins. After earning wins over UCLA and Ole Miss during the regular season, MT earned its first postseason berth since 1989 in an NIT bid. The Blue Raiders knocked off Marshall in the first round before downing Tennessee for the first time since the 1988 NIT, but MT's run ended in the quarterfinals against Minnesota.

Despite the graduation of leading-scorer and 2012 Sun Belt Player of the Year LaRon Dendy, the Blue Raiders return four starters and a wealth of experience in six seniors. Senior guard Marcos Knight leads the way as the team's top returning scorer with 11.8 points per game last season. A second-team all-conference performer last year, Knight posted 24 double-digit games and was also named to the NABC All-District Second Team. The Rentz, Ga., native is the only returner that started every game last season.

Senior forward JT Sulton, along with Knight, is the top returning rebounder at 5.2 boards per game in 2011-12. One of the league's most accurate shooters a year ago, Sulton's 53.3 percent field goal shooting was fifth in the Sun Belt, and he finished the season third on the team with 10.3 points per game. The Yazoo City, Miss., native earned third-team all-league honors, posted 20 double-figure games and started all but one contest as a junior.

Undoubtedly, senior guard Bruce Massey's most memorable performance came in the Blue Raiders' 71-64 NIT victory at Tennessee. The defensive specialist had a breakout game, posting his first double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, both career-highs. Massey ranked as the league's best in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.1) throughout the season and finished fourth in assists (3.9) and steals (1.6).

In addition to Knight, Sulton and Massey as last year's regular starters, senior guard Raymond Cintron started 17 contests and finished the 2011-12 season as one of the league's best 3-point shooters. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Cintron ranked sixth in the Sun Belt in 3-point field goal percentage (.432) and ninth in 3-pointers per game (2.0). The team's fourth-leading scorer with 8.4 points per game, Cintron posted 15 double-digit performances and led the squad with a 90.7 free throw percentage.
It isn't just the regular starters from last season, however, that form the foundation for the 2012-13 squad. MT also returns a deep bench, with four other players who also made starts during last year's campaign. Junior guard Kerry Hammonds made 11 starts and averaged 4.9 points per game. Senior guard Jason Jones looks to bounce back from a back injury that hampered most of his junior year, where he made three starts and averaged 4.9 points per game. Senior guard James Gallman made three starts last year and finished the season with the team's second-most 3-pointers. Junior forward Shawn Jones also earned a start last year and averaged 7.3 points per game to go along with 37 blocks, second-most on the team behind Dendy.

Junior center Torin Walker, sophomore forward Jacquez Rozier and junior guard Zane Gibson round out the returning Blue Raiders, while junior guard Trantell Knight and junior forward Neiko Hunter will likely be the impact newcomers.

MT was picked unanimously to win the Sun Belt's East Division according to the preseason coaches' poll released by the league on Oct. 24.

Four Blue Raiders were selected to the preseason all-conference teams, the most of any school. Senior guard Marcos Knight earned a first-team nod, senior forward JT Sulton and senior guard Bruce Massey were voted to the second team, and senior guard Raymond Cintron was named to the third team.

On the heels a record-breaking season, the 2012-13 Blue Raider men's basketball team is already receiving recognition in the USA Today coaches' preseason poll. MT, the Sun Belt's only representative in the poll, received three votes after winning the league's regular season title and finishing 27-7 last season.

Raymond Cintron was listed at No. 39 on CBSSports.com's Top 50 shooters for the upcoming season after hitting 43.2 percent of his shots from beyond the arc last season. The San Juan, Puerto Rico, native ranked sixth in the Sun Belt in 3-point shooting and was ninth with 2.0 treys per game. Overall, Cintron shot 45 percent from the field and averaged 8.4 points per game.

Middle Tennessee will also face four shooters on the list throughout the 2012-13 season. Florida's Erik Murphy, Texas Southern's Omar Strong, Belmont's Ian Clark and Tennessee State's Robert Covington were listed among the top 50.

The regular season is underway for former Blue Raider LaRon Dendy. The 2012 Sun Belt Player of the Year has started all four games for Kolossos this year and has helped the Greek team to a 3-1 record. The Greenville, S.C., native is currently the team's leading scorer, averaging 19.0 points per game.

Season tickets are also on sale now for $140, or purchase both men's and women's season tickets for $199. Price includes a ticket to the Blue Raiders' game against the Commodores at Bridgestone Arena. To purchase, call the Blue Raider Ticket Office at 1-888-YES-MTSU or to buy online, click here.

The Blue Raiders' regular season begins Nov. 9 when MT hosts Alabama State at 7:45 p.m.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.