TSU Men’s Basketball Elevates Jerry Nichols To Associate Head Coach

Jerry Nichols. Photo: Courtesy of Tennessee State Athletics

Tennessee State University (TSU) men’s basketball Head Coach Brian “Penny” Collins has elevated Jerry Nichols to Associate Head Coach for the upcoming 2023-2024 season.

Entering his sixth season on the TSU sidelines, Nichols has been a mainstay alongside Collins since his hiring in 2018. No stranger as a head coach, Nichols compiled a 200-59 record in nine seasons at the junior college level.

Prior to working with Collins, the two battled as opposing coaches in Region Seven of the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association. Collins was the Head Coach of Columbia State at the time.

A native of Memphis, Nichols won five TCCAA Coach of the Year honors. He got his first head coaching role at Motlow State (2009-2013), and moved to Southwest Tennessee from 2013-2018 until his appointment at TSU.

At Southwest Tennessee, Nichols picking up three TCCAA Coach of the Year awards and won 120 games in five highly-successful seasons. Nichols’ Saluqis finished 18th or better in the final NJCAA Division I polls in four of his five seasons. Southwest finished 11th twice, including the 2015-2016 season, when the Saluqis went 30-5 and earned a berth in the NJCAA Elite Eight.

Nichols won his first two TCCAA Coach of the Year awards at Motlow State, where he went 80-31 serving as the Head Coach and Athletics Director. His best season with the Bucks came in 2012-2013, when his team won the TCCAA Championship and earned a berth in the NJCAA National Tournament. Motlow State finished 13th in the final NJCAA Division I poll in 2013.

Nichols began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Walters State Community College during the 2006-2007 season before heading to Union College in Kentucky for the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons.

He has been a USA Basketball contributor through the years and served as a coach for the USA Basketball Under 18 Junior National Team in 2016 at the FIBA Americas U18 Championships in Valdivia, Chile which featured eight national teams from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean.

As a player, Nichols starred for Westwood High School in Memphis, and went on to become a two-time All-American guard at Walters State Community College. The two-time TCCAA Player of the Year ranked ninth in the nation, scoring 21.6 points per game as a sophomore. He continued his education and playing career at Arkansas State, where he led the team in three-point shooting and was deemed their top defensive player his junior season. Nichols also received ASU’s Leadership Award as a senior.

Nichols graduated from Arkansas State in 2006 and earned his graduate degree from Union College in 2009.

Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball To Play In Las Vegas Tournament, Season Tickets On Sale

Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Though basketball season is a ways away, fans still have reason to get excited as the Vanderbilt men’s basketball team will take part in the inaugural Vegas Showdown, and men’s and women’s basketball season tickets are now on sale.

As part of the Vegas Showdown, the Commodores will compete on Nov. 23 and 24 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The two-day tournament’s field includes Vanderbilt, Arizona State, BYU and NC State.

Vanderbilt won 22 games last season and earned a bid to the NIT. The Commodores have had success in ESPN’s non-conference tournaments over the last two seasons, going 2-0 at the 2021 Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii with wins over BYU and Hawaii, and 1-1 in the 2022 Wooden Legacy with a win over Fresno State.

Matchups for the 2023 Vegas Showdown will be announced at a later date.

Existing season ticket holders have until June 28 to renew their tickets for both programs in order to secure their same seats for the 2023-2024 campaign as well as participate in the seat upgrade process the following month. After the deadline, seats will be released from non-renewed accounts, giving other season ticket holders access before the general public.

Prices begin at just $200 for men’s basketball season tickets, with parking available in the 25th Avenue Garage for $100. Women’s basketball prices start at $50 for the season, while parking passes are available for $50 in Kensington Garage.

Individuals renewing prior to the deadline will ensure their participation in the seat upgrade process the week of July 24. More information will be sent via email to those fans as the deadline approaches.

Commodores supporters interested in purchasing basketball season tickets may contact the ticket office at ticket.office@vanderbilt.edu or 615.322.4653. Fans can also visit the ticket office in person at the McGugin Center, open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. CT.

College Corner: Vanderbilt’s Celia-Belle Mohr, MTSU’s Dean Hayes, Lipscomb Basketball

Vanderbilt Tennis Standout Celia-Belle Mohr Earns Berth In NCAA Championship

Celia-Belle Mohr. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Sophomore Celia-Belle Mohr will represent Vanderbilt women’s tennis at the NCAA Singles Championships for the first time in her career.

The Montargis, France, native is a First Team All-SEC honoree and has amassed 28 singles victories overall this season, including 10 over nationally ranked opponents. Additionally, she has won seven of her last 10 matches, even recording a win over the No. 2 player in the country.

Throughout the season, Mohr maintained her position as a top singles player, currently sitting at No. 30 in the nation. The No. 29 Vanderbilt women’s tennis team fell to No. 10 Ohio State University 4-2 this weekend, ending their NCAA tournament run.

The championships are scheduled for May 22-27 at the USTA National Campus.




MTSU’s Legend Dean Hayes Named To The OVC Hall Of Fame

Legendary Middle Tennessee Track & Field Head Coach Dean Hayes will be inducted posthumously into the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) Hall of Fame on Friday, June 2 in Nashville. Hayes will be inducted with former UT Martin Men’s Golf Head Coach Jerry Carpenter and former SIUE Women’s Softball Head Coach and Administrator Sandy Montgomery.

Hayes, who passed away in January 2022, was revered locally, regionally, nationally and internationally as he promoted track & field around the globe.  He took over as Head Coach at Middle Tennessee in 1965 and turned the program into a juggernaut, serving as Head Coach for 56 years.

During his tenure in the OVC, he led MTSU to 29 OVC titles, more than any other OVC member in conference history. Hayes coached Blue Raider athletes to 374 individual or relay championships, had 28 individuals earn All-American status a total of 53 times and led MTSU to 15 NCAA Top 25 finishes. Additionally, he had athletes earn six individual National Championships. He was named OVC Coach of the Year 15 times, including 10 in a row from 1977-1986. He was also named USTFCCA NCAA Division I Coach of the Year in 1981 and served as President of the association in 1982 and 1983.

Hayes saw nine of his OVC-era athletes compete in the Olympics and had numerous athletes compete in the Goodwill Games, the World University Games, the World Cup, the World Championship, the Pan-Am Games and the African Championships.

He was also credited with integrating MTSU Athletics, with Jerry Singleton becoming the first African American Varsity Scholarship Athlete at the school in 1965. He is already a member of the USTFCCA Hall of Fame, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, the Illinois Sports of Hall of Fame, the MTSU Blue Raider Hall of Fame, the Lake Forest College (his alma mater) Hall of Fame and the Naperville High School Hall of Fame. Hayes is also the namesake of  the outdoor track stadium at MTSU.

The induction will take place at the Hilton Franklin Cool Springs during the annual OVC Honors Brunch.




Lipscomb Men’s Basketball Adds To Coaching Staff

Photo: Courtesy of Lipscomb Athletics

Lipscomb University men’s basketball Head Coach Lennie Acuff has announced the addition of Vince Martin as Assistant Coach and Will Acuff as Director of Operations.

Martin comes to Lipscomb after a stint as an assistant coach at ETSU. This past season at ETSU, the Bucs secured 12 victories with seven wins at home. Before ETSU, Martin spent three seasons at fellow ASUN institution, Jacksonville University. While with the Dolphins during the 2021-22 season, Jacksonville garnered their largest number of wins since the 1985-1986 and 1970-1971 seasons. In addition, Jacksonville was a perfect 15-0 at home. Martin worked with the guards and forwards, and developed multiple players who have earned all-league honors, including Kevion Nolan, Dontarius James and Destin Barnes.

“We are extremely fortunate to add Coach Vince Martin to our coaching staff. He has experienced success in the ASUN as both a player and highly respected assistant coach,” says Acuff.  “He is a proven recruiter throughout the southeast and has earned the reputation as an elite player development coach. As we went through the hiring process, it became obvious that Vince would be a tremendous fit at Lipscomb University and would add significant value to our basketball program. His character, integrity and ability to get things done allow us to continue to improve. I look forward to working with and learning from him on a daily basis.”

Prior to his time at Jacksonville, Martin was the Head Coach at Bishop Snyder High School in Florida for three years. While at Bishop Snyder, Martin developed some of the top talent in the state of Florida, including Corey Walker Jr., former five-star and University of Tennessee signee. Martin also worked with the Atlanta-based Game Elite AAU program where he coached multiple top prospects in the nation, including former four-star athletes Walker Kessler and Ernest Ross.

Will Acuff returns to Lipscomb after serving as a Graduate Assistant Coach with the Bisons during the 2021-2022 season, during which he assisted in all aspects of the basketball program with an emphasis in player development and day to day operations. In Acuff’s season with the Bisons, Lipscomb notched 14 wins and advanced to the Quarterfinals of the ASUN Championship.

After his season with Lipscomb, he served as the Head Coach at Randolph School in Huntsville, Alabama, where his 2022-2023 boys team doubled their win total from the previous season.

Belmont’s Ben Sheppard Invited To 2023 NBA Combine

Ben Sheppard. Photo: Sam Simpkins

Belmont University men’s basketball student-athlete Ben Sheppard has been invited to the 2023 NBA Combine.

Sheppard added to his reputation as one of the most complete players in college basketball as he became a finalist for the Lou Henson National Player of the Year honor and posted 29 double figure scoring games, including 12 games with 20 or more points.

In addition to being the first player in the conference named Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Player of the Week three times this season, he was the only player named All-MVC First Team and MVC All-Defensive Team.

Named to the Paradise Jam All-Tournament Team, Sheppard ranked among conference leaders in 16 statistical categories, including second in field goals made, third in total points and points per game and fourth in 3-point field goals made.

The Atlanta, Georgia native stood among select company in college basketball of players with at least 1,500 points, 450 rebounds, 200 assists and 100 steals.

A two-time First Team All-Conference and NABC All-District selection, Sheppard joined program legends Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson to earn First Team All-Conference honors in consecutive seasons in two different conferences. He also joined NBA Champion Clark, Cleveland Cavalier guard Dylan Windler and J.J. Mann as the only Belmont players of the NCAA Division I era to score 600 or more points in a season, was a runner-up for the Larry Bird Trophy – given to the MVC Player of Year.

The 2023 NBA Combine will take place May 15-21 in Chicago, Illinois. Live coverage of the 2023 NBA Combine will be on the ESPN family of networks and NBA TV.

Anthony Wilkins Named Vanderbilt Basketball Assistant Coach

Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt men’s basketball Head Coach Jerry Stackhouse has announced the hiring of Anthony Wilkins as an assistant coach. A native of Atlanta, Wilkins spent the last five seasons at Georgia Tech, four as an assistant coach before one as the Associate Head Coach.

“We are thrilled to add Anthony Wilkins to our Vanderbilt coaching staff,” says Stackhouse. “He is an experienced teacher, recruiter and mentor who has proven experience at the highest levels of college basketball. My relationship with Anthony dates back to my playing days and I’ve enjoyed watching his growth into an outstanding coach. We are excited to welcome Anthony to our program and believe in his ability to impact in all facets of our program.”

At Georgia Tech, Wilkins made major contributions in player and skill development – aiding in the on-court growth of future NBA players Jose Alvarado and Moses Wright. He helped lead the Yellow Jackets to the 2021 ACC Tournament Championship as well as a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

He was also one of a select group of assistant coaches invited to attend the Collegiate Coaching Consortium at the 2022 Final Four, during which the National Association of Basketball Coaches & Athletic Directors bring together a group of coaches and a group of Division I athletic directors in a two-day exercise in professional development and identifying top talent.

“Vanderbilt is a proud and accomplished community, whose values and integrity are the gold standard in academics and athletics,” says Wilkins. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to support Coach Stackhouse, his leadership and demand of excellence sets an inspiring tone. I’m excited to contribute. Anchor Down.”

Prior to arriving at Georgia Tech, Wilkins spent five seasons on staff at Tulane working under former Vandy Associate Head Coach Ed Conroy as well as Mike Dunleavy Sr. He served as Director of Basketball Operations for one season before four seasons as an assistant coach for the Green Wave.

He began his collegiate coaching career as the Director of Player Development at his alma mater Kent State, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in communications, in 2012-2013. As a player, Wilkins played professional basketball for six years in Sweden, Ukraine, Mexico and South Korea. He also played in the NBA’s Development League (now G League) for Fort Worth and Tulsa (2005-2006) and Bakersfield (2007-2008). Additionally, Wilkins participated in the Atlanta Hawks Vet Camp in 2005 and played on the organization’s summer league team in 2006.

MTSU Standout Kseniya Malashka Selected In WNBA Draft

Kseniya Malashka. Photo: Courtesy of Middle Tennessee Athletics

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU)’s women’s basketball continues to have a historic 2023 as standout Kseniya Malashka was selected by the Chicago Sky in the third round of the 2023 WNBA Draft on Monday evening (April 10), becoming the fifth player in program history to earn a spot in the WNBA Draft from MTSU.

Malashka averaged 15.1 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game in 2022-2023, playing a role that brought her off the bench through the season – earning her Conference USA Sixth Player of the Year for the second straight season. She helped lead the Lady Raiders to a 28-5 record, NCAA Tournament appearance, a Conference USA Regular Season and Tournament title, plus a top 25 ranking through a majority of the conference season.

Playing in 128 games during her collegiate career, Malashka scored 1,207 career points and grabbed 550 rebounds. She added an impressive 165 blocks, including 55 in 2022-2023. For her career, she shot over 42.6 percent from the field.

Among her most notable performances during her final season in Murfreesboro was a late season, 27-point performance against Louisiana Tech on Feb. 25, 2023. In just 27 minutes, she posted an impressive 27 points that was capped by the game-winning basket with two seconds remaining and a clean block at the buzzer to secure the victory.

Malashka joins Alysha Clark (2010; Second Round; 17th Pick to San Antonio), Amber Holt (2008; First Round; 9th Pick to Connecticut), Chrissy Givens (2007; Third Round; 31st Pick to Phoenix) and Cheyenne Parker (2015; First Round; 5th Pick to Chicago) as former Lady Raiders to be selected in the WNBA Draft. Clark and Parker are currently active on rosters in the league with Clark having recently signed with the Las Vegas Aces and Parker set to enter her third consecutive season in Atlanta. All five players played under Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Head Coach Rick Insell.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game Ratings Plunge From 2022

The NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Game this past Monday (April 3) between UConn and San Diego State saw the lowest ratings for a March Madness championship ever.

Monday’s title game averaged 14.69 million viewers. That number represents a 15 percent decrease from last year’s Kansas vs. North Carolina matchup that aired on TBS, TNT, and truTV. The total viewing figure is the lowest-rated and least-watched title game.

The previous low came when Villanova defeated Michigan in 2018. An average of 16 million viewers watched that broadcast on TBS, TNT, and truTV.

The lowest National Championship Game broadcast on CBS before Monday night’s tilt was Baylor’s defeat of Gonzaga in 2021. An average audience of 17.1 million watched that contest.

Even though the broadcast was the lowest championship game on record, its total viewership still eclipsed the deciding game of last season’s NBA Finals. 13.99 million tuned into ABC to see the Golden State Warriors defeat the Boston Celtics. The UConn vs. San Diego State also outdrew the record-high audience of 9.9 million for the women’s national championship game that aired on ABC Sunday afternoon.

Despite this news regarding the ratings for National Championship Game, the Round of 64 saw previously unseen heights in viewership, averaging 9.2 million viewers between CBS, TNT, TBS, truTV, and the March Madness Live streaming platform.

In total, this year’s March Madness coverage saw an average of 9.55 million viewers per broadcast window. That is a seven percent decrease compared to 2022.

College Corner: Belmont Star Destinee Wells Joins The Lady Vols, Vandy’s Malik Dia Transfers To Belmont, Jordan Wright Makes LSU Move

Former Belmont Star Destinee Wells Commits To Tennessee

After entering the transfer portal, former Belmont superstar Destinee Wells has committed to the University of Tennessee, joining the Lady Vols for the 2023-2024 season.

“We are excited to add Destinee Wells to the Lady Vol family,” says Head Coach Kellie Harper. “She possesses a wealth of experience at the point guard position and is a three-level scorer who shoots with impressive accuracy in each of those phases. We are so pleased to have a person and basketball player of Destinee’s caliber joining our program.”

Wells spent three years at Belmont University, breaking records and winning championships. She played 90 games as a Bruin, averaging 18.1 points, 4.7 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals while shooting 46.7 percent from the field, 38.3 percent on threes and 83.4 percent on free throws. Wells amassed 1,648 points, 427 assists, 292 rebounds and 125 steals while connecting on 381 three-pointers during her time at Belmont.

Ranked as the No. 10 player in the transfer portal by ESPN, she was an All-Ohio Valley Conference First-Team selection and was named OVC Tournament MVP and All-OVC Tournament as well as being named 2020-2021 OVC Freshman of the Year and to the OVC All-Newcomer Team. Wells was selected as the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Player of the Year in 2021-2022, and was once again on the Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Watch List that season.




Belmont Picks Up Malik Dia In Transfer Portal From Vanderbilt

Malik Dia. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt freshman Malik Dia will be staying in Nashville, playing up the street at Belmont next season after he entered the transfer portal.

Dia committed to Vanderbilt while at Ensworth High School in Nashville where he averaged 22.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game as a senior in 2021-2022, and was ranked as the nation’s No. 31 power forward by ESPN as well as the state’s No. 5 recruit and nation’s No. 28 power forward by Rivals.

The six foot nine power forward averaged 2.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and 8.5 minutes per game in 20 games while at Vanderbilt with a season-high 10 rebounds in win over Southeastern Louisiana, and scored 14 points on four made 3-pointers against Kentucky.




Vanderbilt Veteran Jordan Wright Transfers To LSU

Jordan Wright. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt senior and veteran leader Jordan Wright has transferred to Louisiana State University (LSU) for the 2023-2024 season, the athlete announced via social media.

Wright entered the transfer portal after finishing his senior year at Vanderbilt, where he played 33 games, averaging 10.5 points per game, 5 rebounds per game and shooting 40 percent from the field. As a senior, he helped lead Vanderbilt to multiple wins over ranked opponents including Tennessee and Kentucky, where he hit the game-winning shot over the Wild Cats in Lexington. He also led the Commodores to the NIT Quarterfinals, beating Yale and Michigan at Memorial Gym.

The Baton Rouge, Louisiana native will be joining second-year LSU Head Coach Matt McMahon.