Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
With the regular season winding down, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (26-4, 16-1) are set to host their Senior Night on Saturday when they play Florida Atlantic at 5 p.m. This year’s team will honor four players, each of whom have brought different strengths to the team during their time in Murfreesboro.
First, there’s three-point specialist Xavier Habersham. Originally from Dublin, Georgia, the man they call “X” was patient when he first arrived on campus. He redshirted his first year, before playing consistent minutes during his junior year. This included a game at Southern Mississippi where he made a then career-high three shots from long-range to help the Blue Raiders to victory.
This year, Habersham has stepped up even more and became a starter during conference play. He’s played his best basketball of the year lately, averaging 10.3 points per game over the team’s recent three-game road trip. He played his best of those three games against rival Western Kentucky in Bowling Green, Ky. with a career-high tying 12 points on four three-point makes.
Head coach Kermit Davis knows that while the stats might not be gaudy, Habersham will be remembered quite fondly for years to come in Murfreesboro.
“He’s going to go down as one of the most prolific three-point shooters, percentage-wise, in the history of our school,” Davis said. “He’s really on a tear right now.”
Next, there’s energy man Aldonis Foote. He transferred to MT from Trinity Hills Community College in Illinois before his junior year. While a lot of what “AD” does on the court doesn’t really show in the box score, Foote’s real contributions show in effort and hustle. One of the team’s best rebounders and defenders, he showed all of his tricks this year against Charlotte.
In a game where the Blue Raiders trailed 12-4 early on, Foote was inserted by Davis to add some energy both to the team and the Murphy Center. He answered the call by scoring four points and grabbing five rebounds. While that may not seem significant, he gave his team a boost when they needed it most and they went on to win 70-55 over the 49ers.
Davis believes that Foote could be one of their best players, especially when he has the right mindset.
“Aldonis Foote has a real good passion and when he’s alert and ready to go, he changes our team on the floor,” Davis said. “We’re going to need him down the stretch.”
Davis recognizes that while Habersham and Foote aren’t the flashiest players, they’ve been key players in their biggest wins the last two years.
“Without Aldonis and Xavier last year, we wouldn’t have won the Conference USA tournament,” Davis said. “They really came on last year and they were a big part of us beating Michigan State.”
When he transferred here last year, JaCorey Williams was someone that all of Blue Raider nation were ready to see in action. After sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer rules, Williams has had one of the best statistical seasons in Blue Raider history.
He leads the team in both scoring (17.4 points per game) and rebounding (7.5 rebounds per game) and early in the season, he was key to the team’s hot start. When the team played Toledo in the Challenge in Music City, Williams showed just how dominant of a scorer he could be by scoring a career-high 31 points to lead the Blue Raiders to a 73-70 overtime win.
In his two years in Murfreesboro, Williams has enjoyed the camaraderie he’s built with his teammates.
“As soon as I got here, my teammates welcomed me with open arms,” Williams said. “Everybody gets along and I think there’s a correlation from the locker room to the court. We’re doing so well on the court because everyone gets along off the court.”
Four-year Blue Raider starter and Chattanooga native Reggie Upshaw rounds out the seniors being honored on Saturday. Upshaw was a major part of MTSU from the moment he arrived, as he learned a lot behind former Blue Raider great Shawn Jones. While he’s had success, Upshaw is just happy to have had the chance to play, let alone leave his mark on a Division 1 program.
“It means the world to me. Coming out of high school, I never thought that I would be able to make an impact like this,” Upshaw said. “I wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, so to be able to come here and cement my legacy in the way I have, it means a lot.”
Coach Davis will remember Upshaw as a someone who was more than just a player on his team.
“Reggie is just a really good guy. He’s a really good player…I never even think about Reggie off the floor because you know he’s doing the right stuff,” Davis said. “He’s taking care of academics, he’s great in our community. We all see what he’s done on the floor and he’s been terrific there, but what I will remember most about Reggie is just how he carried himself off the floor in a really classy way.”
Upshaw and Williams have forged a close bond on and off the court. While he sat out last season, Williams looked at Upshaw like a role model and did everything in his power to have a similar work ethic.
“I saw how hard he worked every day at practice and I just wanted to come in and work as hard as he did,” Williams said. “Now we have so much of a connection where we can look at each other on the court, we give each other eye contact and say ‘let’s go.'”
While they’ve only been around each other for two years, Upshaw appreciates every bit of the time he and Williams have spent together as teammates.
“JaCorey has quickly become one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever played with,” Upshaw said. “When he sat out last year, he was in the gym everyday…I have nothing but great things to say about JaCorey. He’s one of my all-time favorite teammates and I know wherever he goes next year, he’ll be the same kind of player and add to the success wherever he is.”