Photo by David Chamberlain / MTSU Sidelines
The 2018-19 basketball season underwent the biggest change in Middle Tennessee State history when 16-year head coach Kermit Davis left for Ole Miss in his home state. The departure of Davis was expected after multiple NCAA tournament appearances and his extended success at MTSU. With his departure, the Blue Raiders quickly hired former UNC Asheville Head Coach Nick McDevitt.
Typically after a head coaching change, the players who were recruited by the former head coach request a transfer. Most college players only play for their respective universities due to the head coach, and MTSU is no exception.
David Simmons, a pivotal role player last season, was the first to request a transfer to explore other options and universities to continue his collegiate career. Simmons was then followed by three others, two of which were starters from a season ago.
Starting point guard Tyrik Dixon requested a transfer as well.
“Tyrik requested a transfer, and, in our meeting, we all agreed this was the best course of action,” McDevitt said.
Starting shooting guard Antwain Johnson and forward Davion Thomas were dismissed, however, due to choices made by the players, according to McDevitt.
“A series of decisions over an extended period of time, in which university, athletic department and team policies were violated, led to these dismissals,” McDevitt said. “I wish these players the best of luck in their future endeavors.”
No further details regarding the dismissals have been released.
Johnson was poised for a breakout season after leading scorers Giddy Potts and Nick King graduated in the spring. Johnson averaged just over 10 points a season ago, and Dixon started in 59 games as a freshman and sophomore.
Thomas was also ready to step into a bigger role in the upcoming season.
With these departures, there are now even more shoes to fill for the upcoming season, which will likely be a rebuilding one for the Blue Raiders.
The most notable returning players to step up will be sophomore point guard Donovan Sims (1.7 PPG), senior forward James Hawthorne (2.2 PPG) and senior center Karl Gamble (3.9 PPG).
Given the departures caused by graduation, dismissals and transfers, the Blue Raiders will be without their top six scorers from last season’s 25-win campaign.
McDevitt and the Blue Raiders will have to build around the pieces that remain, along with those who McDevitt himself has brought in this offseason.
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