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MT men's basketball returns to hardwood

Blue Raiders set to tip-off 2013-14 hoops season

November 8, 2013 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - After one of the most successful seasons in program history last year, the Middle Tennessee men's basketball team returns to the hardwood for the 2013-14 campaign Nov. 10 with seasoned leaders and fresh faces.

The Blue Raiders have won conference titles three out of the last four seasons in the Sun Belt Conference and look for similar success moving to Conference USA. MT reached the NIT quarterfinals in 2011-12 and followed that with an NCAA First Four appearance in 2012-13.

MT set school records in overall wins and conference wins last season, going 28-6 and 19-1, respectively. The 2012-13 campaign marked the ninth winning season for the Blue Raiders under head coach Kermit Davis and fifth in the last six years. Over the last two years, MT boasts a 55-13 combined record for a winning percentage of .808.

Despite losing six seniors who were an integral part of ending MT's 23-year NCAA Tournament drought, Middle Tennessee returns eight players from last season's squad, including starters Kerry Hammonds II and Shawn Jones. MT reached the Big Dance last year for the first time since 1989 and the seventh time in program history.

MT was one of three teams in the country last season to finish 16-0 or better at home. The Blue Raiders are currently enjoying the second-longest regular season home winning streak in the nation at 28 games. They will put that streak on the line in their season-opener Nov. 10 at Murphy Center, hosting 2013 NCAA Tournament participant Southern University at 4 p.m.

Of the eight returners from last season's team, there are six seniors suiting up this year in Hammonds, Jones, Zane Gibson, Neiko Hunter, Tweety Knight and Torin Walker. This crew knows what it means to be a leader and has big shoes to fill. Last year's senior class was the winningest class in program history, posting a 90-43 record. This season's seniors have the chance to surpass that mark. This year's group currently has 71 wins, recording back-to-back 25-plus win seasons.

Junior Jacquez Rozier and redshirt-sophomore Gavin Gibson round out the returning eight for MT. The returning eight have been responsible for setting the tone for the eight newcomers in practice. The newcomers consist of four freshman, one sophomore and three juniors. This year's recruiting class is heavy in the backcourt with six guards, compared to two forwards. However, Jaqawn Raymond isn't too new to Blue Raider basketball as he's already been on campus for year, after transferring from NC State and sitting out the 2012-13 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

The Blue Raiders open the 2013-14 campaign with a four-game homestand, welcoming Southern, North Florida, Akron and UALR to the Murphy Center. MT then hits the road for the first time Nov. 21, traveling to the Sunshine State to take on Florida. The upcoming season should be exciting and challenging for the Blue Raiders as they face three NCAA Tournament teams in their first five games in Southern, Akron and Florida.

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