(Photo: goblueraiders.com)

Over his 15-year tenure at Middle Tennessee, Head Coach Kermit Davis has built what is becoming recognized as a highly successful mid-major basketball program that could be on the verge of even greater things still to come.

That success can partially be attributed to an ever-growing talent pool at Davis’ disposal inside the Murphy Center as the team’s momentum on both the court and the recruiting trail seems to continue building year after year.

As a testament to the increase in talent coming through the Middle Tennessee men’s basketball program, the Blue Raiders will be represented in this July’s Las Vegas NBA Summer League by a trio of former standouts in Reggie Upshaw, JaCorey Williams and Perrin Buford.

The 11-day, 67-game competition begins Friday and runs all the way through Monday, July 17, giving NBA hopefuls such as Upshaw, Williams and Buford a strong opportunity to showcase their abilities and give scouts and executives a reason to consider adding them to an NBA roster.

Upshaw will be competing for the Milwaukee Bucks in Las Vegas with his first game of the summer tipping off Friday at 5:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2.

The Chattanooga native concluded one of the most illustrious careers in Middle Tennessee history in March as he helped the Blue Raiders reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season while simultaneously collecting his 99th collegiate win, an all-time record at Middle Tennessee.

Upshaw’s career numbers suggest he will go down as one of the best and most versatile players the Blue Raider faithful have ever seen. In addition to sitting atop the school record books in career games played (140) and started (115), the 6-foot-8 forward finished his MT career second in minutes played (3,965), third in steals (151), fourth in scoring (1,571), rebounding (910) and blocks (110), fifth in field goals made (598), seventh in double-doubles (19) and 11th in assists (257).

Williams joins the defending World Champion Golden State Warriors for the summer with his Las Vegas debut coming Saturday at 9:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2.

The Birmingham product made the most of his lone season in Blue and White, leading the team in scoring (17.3) and rebounding (7.3) on his way to Conference USA Player and Newcomer of the Year honors. His 621 points on the season left him just two shy of tying the school record for points in a single season, a mark that has stood for 32 seasons.

Williams logged 11 double-doubles on the season and notched three straight double-double games twice, a feat the no Blue Raider has accomplished once in over 20 seasons.

Buford, a 2016 MT graduate and member of the team that knocked off No. 2 seed Michigan State in St. Louis, is competing in Las Vegas for the Boston Celtics with his first action taking place Saturday at 7:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2.

The Decatur, Ala., native and professional hooper in Italy is currently competing in the Utah Jazz NBA Summer League with the Celtics before moving on to the Las Vegas Summer League.

Buford enjoyed a highly successful rookie season in Italy, leading the team in scoring (16.8) rebounding (7.7), field goal percentage (.508), blocks (33) and minutes (33.5), while also shooting 35 percent from 3-point range.

“Perrin has been over in Italy and had a really great year,” Davis said. “He worked out with the Celtics last year before going to Italy and it just kind of shows you how basketball is worldwide and everybody always has eyes on you as he’s coming back to play with the Celtics in Summer League.

“All three of those guys really bought into our program and grew and matured in a great way,” Davis added. “They really impacted winning at such a high level and all three of them have two great qualities in common. They are very, very competitive and they just love basketball.”

As more and more former Raiders such as Buford, Upshaw and Williams have success at the professional level, it only adds to the growth of the program Davis has steadily built.

“When you’ve got all of these guys signing new professional deals and it comes up a lot in recruiting it really helps our program,” Davis said. “It would be really great to even see one of these guys make a progression into the NBA and I think we’ve got some guys that can play at that level.”


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