There is a genuine youth movement afoot at TSU. Tennessee State University men’s basketball team moves into a new era with head coach Dana Ford at the helm. The youngest coach in all of NCAA Division I will lead a team comprised of one returner and 12 newcomers. The Tigers have two players (senior Jay Harris and junior Christian Crockett) with experience playing at this level, the fewest in Division I. What the Tigers lack in experience, hopefully they compensate for with talent. The Tigers host Reinhardt on Friday, Nov. 14; Southern Illinois on Tuesday, Nov. 18; and Fisk on Thursday, Nov. 20, 7 pm each night in Gentry Center to open the season.
Ford was an assistant coach at TSU under John Cooper from 2009-11. While he coached there, the Tigers won 43 games. Ford helped build the Tigers up by recruiting talented players such as Robert Covington, Kellen Thornton, Patrick Miller and current guard Jay Harris. Harris will be the leader of the Tiger backcourt this season. Last season, his junior year, Harris averaged 7.4 points per game and was second on the team in total steals with 24. He was a 76% free throw shooter and averaged 2.4 rebounds per game.
Harris is joined by newcomers Darreon Reddick, Xavier Richards, Rodney Simeon, and Charles Tucker. Reddick was the top scorer for his high school, Belleville East in Belleville, Ill., averaging 13.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.63 assists. Richards, a transfer from Baltimore City Community College, helped his side win the Region XX Championship, averaging 19.2 ppg shooting 59% from the field. Simeon led Boyd H. Anderson high school in Miami, Fla. to a 25-6 record, averaging 15.3 ppg and 5.5 rebounds.
All five forwards on the squad are newcomers this season, three freshman and two juniors. Zachary Lee averaged 11 points, eight rebounds, 4.2 blocks per game at Eldorado High School in Albuquerque, NM. 6’ 6” forward Demontez Loman averaged 10.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.1 blocks and 1.6 steals per game at Brunswick Community College.
Chima Azuonwu is the team’s only true center at 6’ 11”. The Delta, Nigeria native averaged close to a double-double in his final high school season at Darien High School (Connecticut). Crockett gained his Division I experience at Mount Saint Mary’s as a freshman. At Odessa Community College, he helped his team to a 22-7 record, shooting 54% from the floor and averaging 7.7 points and five rebounds per game.
After the three straight home games to begin the season, TSU will participate in the Barclays Tournament with match-ups against Vanderbilt (Nov. 23), Virginia (Nov. 25) and St. Peters (Nov. 28) before facing either Norfolk State or St. Francis (Nov. 29). December is comprised of only two home games, Hampton (Dec. 2) and Kennesaw State (Dec. 31), and six road games, Lipscomb (Dec. 6), Southern Illinois (Dec. 16), Hampton (Dec. 19), Middle Tennessee State (Dec. 21), Tennessee (Dec. 27), and Texas Christian (Dec. 29) before beginning OVC play in January, 2015.