Raiders relying on pressure defense

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Intense, nonstop defense for 40 minutes.

That’s what Roane State Community College men’s basketball coach Randy Nesbit expects from his team this season.

“Our talent level is balanced,” he said. “There’s no drop-off when you get to that seventh or eighth man, and our depth allows us to play defense more intensely than our opponents.”

If preseason play is an indication, then Roane State’s defensive pressure will be a difference-maker this year. In scrimmages, Nesbit rotated liberally, keeping his defenders fresh as they harassed opponents.

“You start seeing the silly turnovers,” Nesbit said. “It wears on them.”

The defensive pressure sets up the Raiders’ transition game. The team’s depth, ability to score in transition, improved shooting and unselfish play, Nesbit said, could put Roane State in the league’s upper tier.

“There’s not a lot of ego,” Nesbit said. “We really want to challenge to be in the upper division of our league and hope that come tournament time, we can go head-to-head with the top teams in our league.”

The Raiders tip off the season Nov. 1 against Olney in Vincennes, Ind. Roane State’s first home game is Nov. 9 against Walters State (7 p.m.). 

Nesbit, who is assisted by associate head coach Mario Stowers, assistant coach Jerry Boynton and administrative assistant Mike Elmore, provided his outlook for each of the Raiders. 

Rod Drummond, sophomore, 5-10, 170, guard: Drummond is an explosive combo guard. Nesbit has a lot of confidence in Drummond’s ability to run the offense and to score. 

Chandler Ferguson, freshman, 6-5, 208, forward: Ferguson is an athletic forward, an effective rebounder and a solid perimeter shooter. 

C.J. Foster, freshman, 6-3, 177, guard: Foster’s size and athleticism give him a physical advantage over smaller guards, allowing him to get to the rim. However, Foster is also developing a good perimeter shot.

Darius Gallaher, sophomore, 6-0, 184: Gallaher is a solid contributor who communicates well defensively. Nesbit noted that the offense seems to flow well when Gallaher is in the game.

Nygel Gates, freshman, 6-3, 175, guard: Gates is long and athletic. He finishes well around the basket, and his jump shot continues to improve.

Corey Harris, sophomore, 6-0, 160, guard: Harris is a creative passer and a skilled scorer who can be a catalyst on offense and defense.

Valiant Hed-Taqi, sophomore, 6-8, 230, forward: Hed-Taqi has improved a lot, Nesbit said. His quickness is better, and he has developed his face-up jump shot.

Xavier Howard, freshman, 6-2, 203, guard: Howard is difficult to contain in open court. Already a powerful driver, he has improved his shooting.

Jordan Huddleston, freshman, 6-3, 223, forward: Huddleston is a strong inside player who is learning to use his body to counter larger players. “As he gains experience, he could be a surprise for us,” Nesbit said.

Marques McKoy, freshman, 6-6, 202, forward: Nesbit said McKoy has shown promise as a rebounder and is developing his ability to score with his back to the basket.

Greg Murphy, freshman, 6-5, 215, forward: Murphy can play inside and outside, and he has excellent floor vision. He excels at initiating fast breaks with his rebounding and outlet passing.

Tres Palmer, sophomore, 6-9, 260, forward: At 6-9, 260, Palmer is strong and athletic. In addition to size, he also has the potential to become an accomplished perimeter shooter.

Cameron Porter,, sophomore, 6-3, 195, guard: Porter is a proven 3-point shooter and an effective rebounder from the guard position. Nesbit cited his outstanding leadership and knowledge of the game.