Middle Tennessee junior guard Darren Avery is not a headline grabbing talent. He's only had one game of double digit scoring in his college career, but in many ways he typifies what the Blue Raider basketball program has tried to pride itself on under Kermit Davis.
Avery has emerged in each of the last two years as a physical and reliable defensive presence and has often been willing to sacrifice his body playing as an undersized four man.
The 6-foot-4, 200 pounder is a valuable role player and he relishes his opportunity to contribute in ways that often go overlooked.
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He's spent most of his offseason working on aspects of the game that generate little glory.
"This year I've got to bring more defensive intensity," Avery said. "I think I need to get closer this year with my teammates so that we really feel like a family so we can achieve what we are trying to get this year. But personally I have stressed getting better at rebounding and defense ... I have tried to help some of the young guys and I think they can step in this year and help us accomplish our goal of winning a championship."
Avery is a fourth year junior, one of the veterans on a team that has plenty of experience. He has shown a knack for rising up with a big game a couple of occasions each year.
He scored 15 points in his redshirt freshman season at Louisiana-Monroe and played 29 big minutes in a key road win at Louisiana-Lafayette last season.
He's the perfect example of a player that is capable of filling several roles the team may need to get over the hump in a close game.
He prides himself on being that type of player.
"From summer to now I think we have made a big improvement," Avery said of the Blue Raiders. "It really doesn't matter when I get my chances to have a big game. I always prepare the same way. I just want to win and be a part of something that's special."
Being a part of something special is also exactly the way Avery describes his now three plus years he has spent in the Blue Raider program.
He's experienced some ups and downs in his time as a college player, but Avery says he feels a special sense of belonging inside the program that has been of great assistance to him.
"(MT basketball) has helped me tremendously. The education and basketball has been very beneficial. It's just great to be a part of something. (Coach Davis) has been like a father. He has helped me in so many areas. He has helped in life, school and basketball."
GoMiddle.com Countdown to Tipoff
40 days-October 6th: Schedule full of challenges, opportunities
39 days-October 7th: Sun Belt newcomers to watch
38 days-October 8th: Strong memory motivates Yates
37 days-October 9th: Kanaskie in position to leave a legacy
36 days-October 10th: Johnson driving force behind MT attack
35 days-October 11th: O'Neil hopes to pick up where he left off
34 days-October 12th: Boyd's long awaited debut getting closer
33 days-October 13th: Allen may be MT's missing piece
32 days-October 14th: Hudson aiming for quick recovery
31 days-October 15th: Williams can be a first year factor
30 days-October 16th: X-Factor Hair could push Raiders over top
29 days-October 17th: Green's contributions important for MT
28 days-October 18th: Lighter Haddock making big early impression
27 days-October 19th: Jones adjusting to new level
26 days-October 20th: Avery is a glue man for Blue Raiders