By ANDY HEINTZ Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Two former Indian Hills Community College basketball players signed letters of intent to play Division 1 college basketball next season in the on a rain-soaked Wednesday afternoon at Hellyer Student Life Center.
Rawane Ndiaye will play for the University of Tennessee and Ronald Ross will take his 3-point shooting prowess to Middle Tennessee State University.
“With Pops (the nickname given to Ndiaye by teammates and coaches), size is so hard to come by, when he got healthy ... He became a real popular commodity,” Indian Hills coach Barret Peery said. “He was slowed a bit by his broken foot early in the year, but once he got healthy, he really contributed.
“With Ronald, I think that they [Middle Tennnesse State] have had really good success with guards, especially junior college guards. He can handle and receive the ball.”
Ndiaye was persuaded to become a part of the Volunteer basketball program after he visited the campus last weekend.
“The main thing was I liked the teammates, I liked the coaching staff,” said the former Warrior, affectionately known as Pops. “They are all about work and dedication.”
Ross, who averaged 14.5 points this past season and led the team in 3-point shooting and steals, said Blue Raiders coach Kermit Davis’, the winningest coach in the history of the Sun Belt Conference who was named the District 24 2013 coach of the year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, proven ability to develop guards from the JUCO level was one thing that enticed him to join the MTS program.
“I feel like I can come in right away and make an impact,” Ross said. “I fell in love with the campus, too.”
Ross, who was named to the second-team all-region team, said he could help his team on both ends of the floor. On offense, he cited his shooting and ball handling abilities along with his ability to make his teammates better as three intangibles that could potentially bolster the Blue Raiders offense. Defensively, Ross, channeling the high-intensity defense he learned at Indian Hills, said he would focus on getting after it on every possession.
Ross will join a Blue Raiders team that qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1989 this season. MTS finished 28-5 overall and 19-1 in its last season in the Sun Belt Conference — they will officially join Conference USA July 1.
“The program is on the rise and I feel I can be a piece of the puzzle to help them out,” Ross said.
Ndiaye joins a Volunteer team that finished a respectable 20-13 last season under the leadership of Coach Cuonzo Martin.
“I think if I go there and do the right thing, I think I will help my team be successful,” Ndiaye said, “There are only two bigs remaining, so I’m hoping to have a lot of playing time.”
The former Warrior center said he has learned a lot from the wisdom imparted on him by the Indian Hills coaching staff through his stay.
“I rebound the ball better, I finish better around the rim,” Ndiaye said, “I got quicker, I got slimmer so I run better.”
Ndiaye made it a point to thank not only Peery and the rest of the Warrior staff, but also Patrick Washington, coach at Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, Texas, and Darryl Harris and Lorenzo Odam, the coaches at Body of Christ Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C.
Ross, who was a focal point in the brawl that broke out between Indian Hills and Southeastern and eventually led to the Warriors being banned from postseason play, said he appreciates the support he’s received after the incident and he’s ready to move on with his career.
“The coaches, fans and teammates did a good job of helping me and staying behind my back and being there for me so I think we kind of moved on from it even though that’s not how we wanted to end it,” Ross said.
For Peery, after he spent so much time developing and getting to know his players, it’s rewarding to see them move on and play at a higher level.
“We’ve got seven guys committed to four-year schools now and we hope to have three more by the summertime and I think we get a lot of gratification for that,” Peery said.