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February 18, 2009

Chip's corner: The view from Chip Walters

Chip Walters is the color analyst for Middle Tennessee basketball on the Blue Raider Radio Network and the host of the Kermit Davis Television Show. Chip sat down with GoMiddle.com's Ryan Mudd earlier in the week to discuss Blue Raider basketball as the regular season begins to wind down.

Ryan Mudd: Kevin Kanaskie recently became the school's all time leader in assists. How do you think he will be viewed in MT basketball history?

Chip Walters: I certainly hope Kevin Kanaskie will be remembered as one of the all-timers in Blue Raider history. When his career is over, Kevin will have played more games than any Blue Raider (118 and counting), started more games than any Blue Raider (Thursday against South Alabama will be his 100th), played more minutes than any Blue Raider (3,761 and counting), dished out more assists than any Blue Raider (475 and counting), rank in the top-20 of all-time scoring (1,164 and counting), will have hit more three-point baskets than any Blue Raider other than Robert "Cateye" Taylor (195 and counting), rank in the top five in all-time free throw percentage (81 percent), and rank in the top ten all-time in steals (124 and counting). He will probably get close to 500 assists before the season is over which means he will have scored more than 1,000 points himself and been responsible for another thousand from his teammates. The numbers are pretty darn good before you even start talking about the bumps, bruises, knicks, cuts, knocked-out teeth, fractured vertebrae and other injuries he has played through. What a terrific young man he is, what he does in the classroom, and how he represents Middle Tennessee is all you could ask of a student-athlete. In short, his career has put him in good stead to be inducted into the Blue Raider Hall of Fame at the proper time.

RM: How much does this team miss Antwaun Boyd and Theryn Hudson?

CW: I think you look back at what some of the preseason predictions and expectations of this ballclub and they were made with the expectation that both Boyd and Hudson would be part of Coach Davis' arsenal. What would it have meant to the guard rotation to have Boyd all year with his ability to attack the rim? How would opposing defenses have handled Desmond Yates all season if they had to respect a 6-foot-10 center in the middle. My contention is that Hudson's loss changed everything and allowed teams to consistently double-team Yates and take away some of his ability to operate in space. Montarrio Haddock has been a welcomed addition and will just get better during his senior season, but his presence still doesn't pull the double-teams away from Yates like Hudson (a 60 percent shooter) would.

RM: The team has struggled on the road in Sun Belt play since winning the first two road games at North Texas and South Alabama. What do you attribute that to?

CW: There's no denying they've had some tough times on the road over the last month or so. Middle Tennessee has been outplayed in the backcourt and has not handled the adversities of the road as well as they have in the past. Having seen this team play every game this year, it's a headscratcher when you remember how well they played on the road during the tournament at Missouri State, at North Texas, at South Alabama, and even at Vanderbilt.

RM: What does the team need to do down the stretch to improve?

CW: I asked Coach Davis that very question on his television show this week. "How do you get your team right for the tournament?" He simply answered, "defend." He went on to talk about regaining the toughness we've seen from this and all of his teams at Middle Tennessee. There's not a team in this league that is exactly what they were 2-4 weeks ago and they will all be a little different when the tournament starts in two weeks. Hopefully, we've seen the bottom and will now make the trademarked late-season rush we've seen from the Blue Raiders in years past. The schedule is tough, but the Raiders have already beaten three of the four teams left on the docket and the two-point loss at Western has been the Toppers' closest call at Diddle Arena all year. This team has some good basketball left in it. I just hope the seniors understand that they are only guaranteed five more games. Anything we earn after that will be up to them.

RM: A large percentage of MT students commute to campus. What does the team/school need to do to get more student support at the games?

CW: That's the $64,000 question and I think if anyone could figure that out and bottle it, they could be a millionaire. The marketing department expends a great deal of time and energy getting the word out to the students. The basketball team does a lot of on-campus outreach to the Greek community and other groups. We've seen great student crowds for Tennessee and for ULM and they're great when they are there. I don't know if they truly understand just how much better they can make Middle Tennessee's homecourt advantage if they are there night in and night out. Traveling to all the other arenas in the Sun Belt, MT is not alone. Outside of Western Kentucky, everybody else in the league fights that exact same battle.

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