By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – After being named the 13th head coach of the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team on April 12, John Pelphrey had a small window with which to put together a signing class for his first season at the helm of the Golden Eagle program.
"We're very excited about our new student-athletes," Pelphrey said. "Things that were important to us in recruiting this group, because of the short amount of time we had, were looking for guys that were the type of people we want here at Tennessee Tech and fit our culture; guys who are hard-working, tough, resilient, motivated, helpful and kind; guys who are serious about going to school, serious about getting better at basketball and being part of a team; and then, obviously, guys who understood what it's like to be a part of a community. Cookeville is very important to us, and these guys understand that and want to embrace the University, Cookeville and the surrounding area."
Pelphrey and his staff went to work immediately, working the recruiting circuit in search of the right student-athletes for the direction of a relatively young squad. The results proved fruitful as the newest leader of the purple and gold announced the addition of six newcomers for the 2019-20 season.
"The other thing we needed to try to do," Pelphrey explained, "was provide some balance to our roster from a class perspective. That was a critical piece and it was important, but at the end of the day, we were also trying to find the best possible player that we could find."
The newest Golden Eagle signing class includes a healthy mix of youth and experience, boasting three freshmen, one sophomore, a junior and a senior. The class also brings in balance and depth across the board, with three guards and three forwards.
The veteran of the group, Darius Allen joins the Tech squad after transferring from Baylor. The incoming senior guard spent two seasons developing his game at Palm Beach State College prior to joining the Bears in Waco, Texas. At Palm Beach State, Allen averaged 14 points, 4.5 rebounds and two steals per game as a sophomore, shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor and over 36 percent from downtown.
Hailing from nearby Murfreesboro, Keishawn Davidson represents one of the class' three rookies. The point guard was dominant in three seasons at Oakland High School before finishing up his high school career at Athens Prep Academy, where he average over 19 points per game. In his time at Oakland, he earned multiple accolades, highlighted by Class AAA All-State First Team honors from the Tennessee Sports Writers Association (TSWA).
Another veteran making his way to Cookeville is Larry Kuimi, a forward from Missouri City, Texas. A junior college transfer from Lee College, he average 8.3 points, six rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game as a sophomore, shooting above 56 percent from the floor. He spent his freshman campaign at Oklahoma Christian University.
Joining the Golden Eagles as a freshman is Dane Quest, a lengthy guard from Toronto that spent the previous year at Lake Forest High School in Lake Forest, Ill. As a senior, he averaged 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists while earning Lake County All-Star honors. Quest attended South Kent School in South Kent, Conn. as a junior.
The second of Tech's two international student-athletes joining the team for 2019-20, Amadou Sylla arrives after one season at Iowa Western Community College. A native of Bamako, Mali, the forward averaged 3.8 points and four rebounds as a freshman, highlighted by an 18-point, 14-rebound double-double. He attended and played for Our Savior Lutheran High School in the Bronx, N.Y., one of the nation's top programs, prior to his time at Iowa Western.
Rounding out the class is Chicago native and true freshman Tujautae Williams. The athletic wing helped Orr Academy High School become just the fourth program in Illinois High School Association (IHSA) history to win three consecutive state titles, capturing one in each of his sophomore, junior and senior campaigns. He earned Class 2A All-State Second Team honors after averaging 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two blocks as a senior.
Photo by Thomas Corhern