Lovell’s Notebook: The evolution of Giddy Potts continues at MTSU

In CUSA by Blake Lovell

The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders won’t sneak up on anyone this season.

Sneaking up on other teams is hard to do when you’ve won games as a 12-seed or lower in back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.

And there’s one player in particular that will most certainly be on everyone’s radar as soon as the ball is tipped in November: senior guard Giddy Potts.

However, it hasn’t always been that way.

Potts didn’t receive much attention from high-profile programs coming out of high school. He was a 6-foot-1 guard that had the body of a football player, which didn’t exactly cause coaches to start knocking down his door with scholarship offers.

MTSU was one of the schools that did. Potts jumped at the opportunity to play for the Blue Raiders, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Unlike his days as a recruit, drawing attention will be nothing new for Potts at the college level.

An example of that came during MTSU’s NCAA Tournament loss to Butler back in March. Potts took only eight shots and didn’t score a single point in 35 minutes of action.

A big reason for those struggles was due to Butler’s defensive gameplan. Chris Holtmann and company understood the type of pace that Potts could score at if given the opportunity. And unlike many teams who have tried to shut down the super-talented playmaker, the Bulldogs actually found a way to make that objective a reality.

But that hasn’t been the norm for MTSU’s opponents throughout the years.

Potts averaged 15.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game last year, and posted similar numbers in leading the Blue Raiders in scoring with 14.9 points per game during his sophomore season.

Of course, there was one particular performance from that sophomore campaign that showed the nation what he’s capable of, as Potts scored 19 points and played all but one minute during MTSU’s upset of Michigan State in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

With JaCorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw both pursuing their dreams at the NBA level, Potts will once again be the main driving force for the reigning Conference USA champs.

But to fully understand his game, look beyond the scoring and sharpshooting from 3-point land.

Last season, Potts led the team in steals, only committed 47 turnovers on a 31-minute per game average, and finished as MTSU’s third-best rebounder.

And it’s that rebounding presence that makes head coach Kermit Davis very optimistic about Potts having an even larger impact this upcoming season.

“I think he’ll be the best rebounding guard in college basketball next year,” Davis told us on a June episode of the Marching to Madness podcast. “His defensive attributes have really, really improved.”

The game of basketball continues to evolve as both the college and professional ranks. Players that can excel in more than just one area are seeing increased playing time and success due to their ability to affect the game in multiple ways.

Potts is one of those players. Even during his freshman season, it was clear that he was more than just a scorer. Sure, he had breakout scoring performances against Marshall and Western Kentucky in mid-February – scoring 28 and 22 points, respectively – that gave MTSU fans a glimpse into the future ahead for both he and the Blue Raiders.

But during that season, he made the most of his 18 minutes per game in adding plenty of rebounds and steals along the way.

As we know now, that was only the beginning of Potts’ journey towards being one of the most impactful players in the program’s history.

His overall development has continued to get better each season, due in large part to the combination of his tremendous work ethic and ability to grow both on and off the court under an excellent coaching staff.

And while Davis and company will be trying to find their Giddy Potts of the future, they also know that the development of the Giddy Potts of the present is far from finished.

“He’s gotta get to the free throw line more,” Davis said when asked about specific areas of growth for Potts this offseason. “And he’s gotta get better off the dribble, because people just crowd and sit on top of him since he’s such an outstanding shooter.”

If Potts can take the next step in those areas during his senior season, he’ll join Williams and Upshaw in having an opportunity to pursue a career at the next level.

But before he gets there, he’ll be busy doing something that he’s done for years now:

Giving the college basketball world yet another reason to pay attention to the special program that Davis has built in Murfreesboro.

Blake Lovell is a national college basketball writer and host of the Marching to Madness podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @theblakelovell.