The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders pulled off a huge upset in the 2016 NCAA Tournament when they knocked off the Michigan State Spartans, a No. 2 seed, in the first round. They will lose a player who was looking to be a big piece of their team in forward Josh Phillips.
Last year, Phillips played a minimal role for the Blue Raiders and that has led to him making a big and odd decision. He will trade in his basketball sneakers for football cleats as he transfers to Tennessee-Chattanooga to hit the gridiron this year.
“I’ve been wanting to play football since I’ve been in college,” Phillips told The Tennessean. “I’ve always loved football. The whole time I’ve been in college I’ve thought that maybe I’ll play football again. My junior year, after we came back from the (National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball) Tournament, I wanted to talk to Coach Stock (MTSU football coach Rick Stockstill). I talked to Coach (Kermit) Davis before I talked to Coach Stock. It was just to see if I could still play the game.”
Phillips participated in spring practice with the Blue Raiders and head coach Brent Stockstill seemed pretty receptive of the idea of him joining their football program this fall.
“All of those basketball guys, they kind of joke around all the time … ‘Coach, I’m going to come out and play’ and all of that stuff,” Stockstill said. “It wasn’t the first time he had said that, but he was serious about it. He asked me if he could come out there right before their conference tournament. I talked to Kermit, and he explained the basketball deal to me. I said, ‘yeah, come on.’”
Josh Phillips averaged just 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds in 5.3 minutes per game during the 2015-16 season. The six-foot-six rising senior has already gained 15 pounds and is excited to get his career started with the Mocs.
“I lift and run every day, and I just eat, eat, eat,” Phillips said. “I’m just ready to go out there and compete. I’m ready to get after it. I want to watch my body change even more than it has.”
It should be a pretty exciting time for the team this season and Phillips could make a big difference for the team this year. The Mocs open the season on Sept. 1 with Shorter College.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports