From Worst to First: Reggie Scurry’s Journey from the Hardwood to the Sidelines
By: Tyler Hurst
Reggie Scurry never thought he’d be starting his coaching career this early. When the final buzzer sounded on his college career at Middle Tennessee, he thought his playing days were just getting started. He hoped to go overseas and continue playing the game he loved. But then a pandemic happened.
He waited patiently for a league to call, but when his patience grew thin, he found the next best way to still be around the game he loved: coaching. He came back to his alma mater as a graduate assistant and helped the Blue Raider program rise from the ashes.
Before coming to MTSU as a player, Scurry had made two previous stops at Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa and Missouri State, respectively. Current Cincinnati assistant coach, Andre Morgan, was with the Blue Raiders at the time, and made Scurry a priority for head coach Nick McDevitt’s inaugural recruiting class in 2018.
Morgan had been recruiting Scurry since he was a junior in high school, and while he didn’t get him the first two times, the third time turned out to be the charm.
“As soon as I was eligible to talk to [after putting his name in the transfer portal], he was the first person to call me,” Scurry said. “I told him I loved all the effort he put in over the years, so I’m just going to sign.”
Scurry was a star on Coach McDevitt’s first two teams, amassing 540 points, 139 rebounds, and 34 blocks in just 51 games. However, it didn’t translate to the win-loss column.
In Scurry's first year, six players left in the summer, and the team only won 11 games. The second year wasn’t much better with the team regressing, winning only eight games.
“I didn’t know how those seasons were going to go, I just knew it wasn’t going to go how I wanted it to be,” Scurry said. “So, I just went out and gave it my all.”
At the conclusion of his college basketball career, Scurry figured there was professional basketball ahead of him. The NBA probably wasn’t in the cards, but there were still plenty of professional leagues overseas that needed players. Scurry seemed like he was on the way to landing an overseas gig, until COVID struck.
In March 2020, the international leagues followed in the NBA’s footsteps and shut down their seasons. With everyone stuck at home, there was no basketball to play unless you participated in the NBA’s “bubble”. International players, and aspiring international players such as Scurry, were stuck waiting on a call that wouldn’t come.
With no basketball to play, Scurry discovered another avenue: coaching.
“I didn’t just want to sit around all day and wait for a call,” he said. “I told myself if basketball doesn’t work, I can at least help somebody else.”
Scurry immediately made the call to coach Morgan and coach McDevitt got him on staff as a graduate assistant for the 2021-22 season.
Most players, when they’re transitioning from the court to the sidelines, feel that itch to throw on a jersey and run out there with the guys. Not Scurry.
He took more pride in teaching the younger players and watching them gel more than anything else.
“He’s been somewhat of a big brother,” said Justin Bufford, a freshman on the team.
In a way it was bittersweet for him, because this team had something his teams never had.
“My teams never had togetherness,” he said. “We preached it, but we didn’t have it. This team though, they had it and more.”
Seeing that sense of togetherness made Scurry know this team had something different about them. He noticed them laughing and joking around the locker room. Nobody was putting each other down or hating on others' successes. The culture had taken a complete 180, and nobody noticed that more than the man who’d been there from the beginning of McDevitt’s tenure.
That togetherness showed up on the court as the Blue Raiders led one of the biggest turnarounds in the NCAA going from five wins to 26 wins, culminating in a Conference USA East title and a runner-up finish in the CBI Tournament this past March.
The former moment was extremely special for Scurry.
After defeating Western Kentucky to win the division title, Scurry could be spotted at midcourt smiling ear to ear among the Blue Raider students after the court storm. He was easy to spot because he was the one hoisting the trophy.
Going into the season, some considered McDevitt’s seat to be warm due to the struggles of his previous teams. No matter the struggles, Scurry still believed in his coach.
“When you’re a player you hear so many doubts, and so many people were saying coach McDevitt was the wrong fit,” he said. “I didn’t like how people were downing him as a coach.”
To see the winning culture, he watched his coach preach since the day they both walked on campus in 2018, finally pay off in a division championship was extremely special for Scurry.
“Holding up that trophy was one the most amazing moments I’ve had here, and I didn’t even play,” he said with a laugh.
Scurry is coming back as a GA for another year and hopes to continue making his mark with the younger players on the team.
This past season, he would always keep his office door open because guys would always want to pick his brain on what they should work on. Scurry loved it.
He relishes teaching whether it’s in the film room, the practice floor, or on the bench during the game.
“When you check out of the game and you go down the bench, Reggie will pull you to the side and say, ‘when you drove on that last possession, he was on your hip so put a body into him,’” said Bufford. “Just small things like that, but they make a big impact.”
Scurry hopes to be a head coach one day, but for right now he’s going to enjoy the ride with his alma mater.
Even if the Blue Raiders can’t replicate the success of this past season and more next year, Scurry can always look back and know he laid the foundation and built the bridge to help the Blue Raider men’s basketball program rise again.