Question: Can you identify the best player on your team and are they always the “heart and soul” of your team? The answer is ... maybe.
Let’s look at MTSU's Lady Raiders. The best player could be heading toward All-American status. I’m speaking to those of you who are perhaps living in caves and other remote places. Ebony Rowe is the all-time leading scorer at MTSU and breaks her on record every time she scores.
Without her, the Lady Raiders would be sneaking up on 10 wins rather than speeding past 20 and a Top 25 ranking. Rowe usually leads the Lady Raiders in scoring and rebounding, and they will not win many games without her.
Is she the best Lady Raider? Yes – little question. Is she the heart and soul of the Lady Raiders? Doubtful. I think that’s No. 5 Shanice Cason.
Cason, the team's starting point guard, leads the Lady Raiders in assists, courage and spirit. She plays the game hard, takes charges, plays good defense, can score, makes few turnovers, can get the ball where it belongs on offense and constantly disrupts the opponent’s offense. She never quits.
With the Blue Raiders it’s more complicated. Shawn Jones is a physically imposing player and is often the leading scorer and /or rebounder. He should be a first-team All-Conference USA player (Middle's first one). However, he is not the best athlete.
The problem is, I’m not sure who it is. It could be Neiko Hunter or maybe Reggie Upshaw. It might be Kerry Hammonds. MTSU always play better when Kerry plays well. He can set a tone, and the Blue Raiders usually win when he’s on.
I don’t think any of those fine players are the “heart and soul” of the Raiders. That distinction belongs to senior point guard Tweety Knight. When he is not on the floor, MTSU begins to suffer almost immediately, no matter who takes his place.
Tweety leads the Blue in smarts, assists, effort, spirit and hustle. He can score when needed and really works on defense. I really like his demanding motivating nature as a leader and he never, ever quits.
Some notes: The Lady Raiders are usually far ahead of their opponents in attendance, even if you take the Tennessee game and the Murfreesboro City Schools game out of the equation.
The Lady Raiders usually trail their opponents in foul shooting percentage.
The Lady Raiders foul less than their opponents, get more rebounds, many more assists (Cason!), make fewer turnovers (Cason again!) and they get more steals. The Lady Raiders block fewer shots.
On the men’s side, the Raiders usually outdraw their opponents.
It’s close, but the Raiders also usually trail in free throw percentage. That’s no surprise to those of us in section G. It’s driving us nuts, Kermit!
The Raiders foul less than their opponents and the Blue get more rebounds, more assists (Knight!), blocks and steals (Knight!). The Raiders also make fewer turnovers (Knight again!).
A few of these stats are close, but usually MTSU is on the positive side of these numbers, and as a result, both teams are thriving. GO BLUE!