Friday, September 22, 2023

Blue Raider basketball locks in five elite players for the future


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Photo by Gregory French / Sidelines Archive

MTSU men’s basketball officially begins the 2016 regular season tomorrow 11 a.m. at home against Milligan College. But for Kermit Davis and staff, their first real win came on Wednesday and Thursday in the form of 5 faxed letters of intent as the program added elite talent for years to come during the NCAA early signing period.

Here, we give a brief breakdown of each of the players:

Donovan Sims


6-foot-2-inches, 145 pounds

Blackman High School, Murfreesboro, TN

The combo guard from Blackman has decided to extend his time in Murfreesboro, at least another four years. Sims is coming off a season where he averaged six points, three rebounds, and five assists per game as his team stood at the No. 1 ranking in the state of Tennessee throughout the regular season. The Blackman standout chose the Blue Raiders over East Tennessee State and is looking to become the next great Murfreesboro signee to suit up in a blue uniform. The last memorable local product was former Siegel standout and current assistant coach of the Stars, Kerry Hammonds. If Sims can produce the same numbers as his cross-town rival did for four years while he was at MTSU, he will be a name to remember.

T.J. Massenburg


6-foot-8-inches, 210 pounds

Shiloh High School, Snellville, GA

Massenburg is an absolute gem for this Blue Raider ball club who turned down 12 Division-1 offers to come to a Blue Raider team that is on the rise. The Georgia native averaged 11 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks per game as a junior at Shiloh HS. Because of his stellar play, Massenburg was selected to the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association 6A First Team All-State. With this key addition, Blue Raider nation should feel at ease after the departure of Reggie Upshaw next year.

Therren Shelton-Szmidt


6-foot-5-inches, 175 pounds

Hamilton Heights Academy, Chattanooga, TN

Similarly to Upshaw, this Chattanooga product comes from a high school rich in basketball tradition. Shelton-Szmidt, originally from Canada, settled in East TN after two of his summer circuit Adidas UPLAY Canada teammates decided to transfer to HHA. His Canadian teammates, Abu Kigab and Shai Alexander, are committed to Oregon and Kentucky, respectively.  The shooting guard still lead his team in scoring. Shelton-Szmidt averaged 17 points and six rebounds per game as a junior going up against prominent prep schools such as Oak Hill Academy and Westtown School.

David Simmons


6-foot-5-inches, 195 pounds

Tallahassee Junior College, Tallahassee, FL

Simmons chose the Blue Raiders after a very successful campaign in Tallahassee. Averaging 14 points, seven rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, Simmons took on the title of Panhandle Freshman of the Year following the season. The shooting guard will complement current standout Giddy Potts as opponents will have to decide on who they want to lock-in. Last season, Simmons made 51 percent of his shots,  35 percent from deep range. When his team went up against Florida State College at Jacksonville, Simmons caught fire, scoring 25 points and ending his night shooting 81 percent from the field.

James Hawthorn


6-foot-7-inches, 195 pounds

Southwest Mississippi Community College, Summit, MS

The final signee is also a JUCO product and a standout from the same school where Coach Davis began his head coaching career 24 years ago. Hawthorn has a very soft touch from around the arc, but can also beat and bang in the post. Hawthorn shot 46.3 percent from the field as a freshman, as well as earning 1.4 blocks per contest on defense. Showing similar characteristics as former Blue Raider Darnell Harris, Hawthorn should fit right in with a MTSU squad that plays physical and likes to shoot the ball.

For more sports stories, follow us at, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Sport.

To contact Sports Editor Tyler Lamb (@Tlamb35), email

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