Time to Shine… Finally!
By: Jackson Patterson
MTN Sports Reporters
It has been a long and exhausting journey for Middle Tennessee State University power forward, DeAndre Dishman. From Covid-19 ending his 2019-20 season early and tearing multiple ligaments in his knee that kept him sidelined for about 15 months, one would think calling it quits would be a reasonable option. But not for Dishman. The seventh-year senior is back for his final year on the court. That’s right, his seventh year, and one that will most likely feature him as the star and leader of the Blue Raider men’s basketball team this season.
It is extremely rare for any college athlete to play their respective sport for seven years. In fact, Dishman is only one of five seventh-year seniors in Division I men’s basketball this season across the entire nation. He has also accomplished a rare stat, scoring over 1,000 career points while in college. With all his hype coming into the season and all that he has already accomplished, Dishman explained that he is grateful and humble for his rare opportunity to play his seventh season of college basketball. “I feel like it’s a big opportunity. It is really rare for somebody to get this many seasons in college, so it is kind of a blessing to have this much experience going on later after college. I feel the best I’ve felt since I’ve been injured. I ended the season really good last year, so hopefully I can carry it over,” said Dishman. He went on to explain his mindset of knowing that he is one of the oldest and most experienced players not only on the Blue Raiders, but in all of college basketball. “I know that I have to be one of the guys to lead the team and that the guys will lean on me. All the coaches are looking for me to push the players and also push myself.”
One of the former players that Dishman was extremely close with and had a lot of chemistry with was Donovan Sims. The two of them have very similar playstyle and both have achieved the 1,000 career points statistic. Sims was the outright leader of the team last year and is someone Dishman draws a lot of his inspiration from. “My relationship with Donovan was great. He was with me on my visit here and remained with me until last year and we still talk. It is kind of going to be an adjustment because he was my go-to and my back door guy, so hopefully someone else will step up for that role. He was definitely a guy that led by example. He did everything right. Rather than just talking to everybody, he would always show you by example,” he said. Dishman described how both he and Sims were excellent passers of the ball, especially to each other. Therefore, he is now looking for and hoping someone else will step in to fill Sims’s shoes in that role.
With this being Dishman’s final season and one where he intends to lead the team, he went into what his personal goals for this season are and also what he expects out of the team since they are coming off a heart-breaking loss to UAB in a game that went into triple overtime in semi-final of the Conference-USA tournament this past March. “Personally, if I take this season the way I ended last year and I carry it over, I think that will be big for me. For the team, I’m hoping we can get over the hump and take steps forward in maturing and hopefully win a championship. I think we have a really good group this year and are already mature. I think everybody is able to take information on without being fussy about it so that is going to be really big and important detail, and being able to listen and knowing that I have got that experience that I have and being able to pass that on to everybody else,” said Dishman.
Dishman then credited the team’s associate head coach, Wes Long, as his biggest influence he has had in his career and described just how close him and Long are. “He has been here for me the whole time. We have gotten really close and whenever I need somebody to talk to, he is literally always there,” he said. Coach Long and Dishman have been together for almost the entirety of Dishman’s career. This will be their fifth year together, and their friendship has grown stronger and stronger during this tenure. “I have been with him a long time and have been privileged to see his growth,” said Long. “When he came here, he had already been in college for two years and he was 19, maybe 20. Now he is 24 and it has been fun to watch him grow over that amount of time. Looking at him, he looks like a big and bad dude, but his heart and his spirit are really beautiful, and it’s been really fun to watch that.”
Coach Long described how he has seen Dishman grow as a leader and how he expects him to lead the team this season with all his maturity and experience. “Leadership isn’t necessarily quantifiable by points and rebounds per game. I think one thing you learn as you mature is what to get upset about and what not to get upset about, both in between the lines and outside the lines. That is a perspective that he brings with his age and maturity and experience level. He can lead these guys in ways that don’t show up on a stat sheet. He’s seen everything, so his leadership really helps in those moments of what to be bothered by and what not to be bothered by,” said Long.
Coach Long went into a unique comparison of Dishman’s leadership style to that of Donovan Sims. He described how both of them are very good at keeping their cool and how nothing ever really unnerved them. “He was tit for tat with Donovan as a leader last year for the same reasons. There is not a whole lot that gets them out of their right mind, and if they are, it’s usually something they ought to be upset about. He and Donovan were very much like that, very levelheaded and if they’re bothered by something, it’s something we have to pay attention to because it's most likely going to affect us,” he said.
Long proceeded to become very emotional as he went on to describe his personal relationship with Dishman and the friendship they have grown to have over the past five years. After taking a pause and a moment to catch his breath before he answered, his voice started to quiver and tears welled up in his eyes, “He’s like a little brother, the little brother that protects the big brother,” he said. “He and I are similar, quiet guys, deep thinkers. He got hurt in Costa Rica on our summer tour in the summer of 2019 and when he got hurt it was on the opposite end of the floor and I was by his side in two or three seconds. I knew from listening and seeing it, that it was bad. From that point forward I always thought about it, internally, about the day that he got back. A few times I can remember that crystalized our relationship, the first night that he got announced in the starting lineup a year and a half after his injury, that was an emotional moment for me because I knew how hard he had worked to just be out there again. Watching him on senior night last year, which I thought was going to be his last time playing here, was also emotional.”
The other thing Long described was how there is a picture that he took of Dishman after their aforementioned loss to UAB last March in the Conference-USA tournament. The only two people who have ever seen this picture are him and Dishman. Long again became extremely emotional with tears compiling in his eyes as he explained, “He had played to literal exhaustion. He had to get IVs in the locker room. He was a warrior and had given Middle Tennessee everything he had in a triple overtime game. The team had gone back to the hotel and the only two people left in the room were me and him. We were waiting on the doctors to come start his IVs. He was sprawled out on the ground just in his compressions. I took a couple pictures to give him one day like as a thank you. I’m so happy to have him back and if I didn’t have my own kids, I would say he is also like my own kid.”
Long’s parting thoughts was how he expects the rest of the Blue Raiders basketball team to rally around Dishman this year and how much he thinks they respect him as a leader. “These guys know his story. They know what he has done and what he’s been through, the ups, the downs, the rehab. Dish is never a guy amongst his teammates who tries to make it about him, ever. He is sacrificial, he’s helpful, and he’s a brother to these younger guys. His thought processes are not selfish. His actions are not selfish. He is not the biggest talker, but because you get to observe how he goes about his business, then they respect that,” were his final words.