Tennessee State Basketball adds five transfers for the 2023-24 campaign

Courtesy of Tennesseee State Athletics

NASHVILLE — Tennessee State men’s basketball head coach Brian “Penny” Collins has announced the addition of five highly sought-after transfers to the 2023-24 roster. Joining the Tigers next season will be Kinyon Hodges from Eastern Illinois, Jason Jitoboh from Florida, Denim Dawson from Nebraska and E.J. Bellinger Jr. and Michael Shanks from Belmont. Jitoboh, Bellinger and Hodges will have one season of eligibility as graduate students while Dawson Shanks has multiple seasons remaining. 

The addition of Hodges, Jitoboh, Dawson, Bellinger, and Shanks adds depth to the roster that lost five graduating players from the 2022-23 roster. TSU has one more remaining scholarship available. 

Kinyon Hodges, a 6’2″ guard from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, played his first three seasons at Three Rivers College before transferring to EIU last season. A member of the OVC Newcomer Team, Hodges led the Panthers in scoring, averaging 14.9 points per game, and was strong on the glass pulling down 3.4 rebounds per contest. 

Hodges recorded 20 or more points six times last season with a career-best 25 points at UT Martin on Jan. 21. Hodges nearly brought EIU back from a deficit against TSU with 15 of his 22 points in the second half. Hodges was two rebounds short of a double-double (17 pts, 8 rebs.) at SIUE on Feb. 11. A minutes-eater, Hodges played 30 or more minutes in 19 games and had 35 or more minutes in 13 games.

“Kinyon is such a dynamic player,” said Collins. “We expect him to build off his All-OVC Newcomer Team accolade. He is one of the most explosive players in this level. He will provide instant experience with knowing the OVC similar to Jr. Clay. Kinyon will have Gentry Center on fire next year. Coming from EIU, we are glad he is on our side now!”

Jason Jitoboh, a 6’11” center from Abuja, Nigeria by way of Chattanooga, Tennessee, played four season with the Gators but was sidelined his junior season due to an eye injury that requires him to wear special protective glasses on the floor.After overcoming incredible odds, Jitoboh found himself in the starting lineup late last season. In 83 games in Gainesville, Jitoboh started 11 games include the final seven games in Blue and Orange. Jitoboh final two games saw him finished with eight points and three blocks against Mississippi State at the SEC Championship in Nashville and added four points, two rebounds and two assists against Central Florida in the Postseason NIT. 

Jitoboh scored a career-best 12 points making all six baskets against Ole MIss on Jan. 24, 2022. On the glass, he had his best outing with 10 rebounds against Vanderbilt on Jan. 22, 2022. Prior to his season-ending injury as a junior, Jitoboh was on pace for his best season at Florida, averaging 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. 

Jitoboh is the second Tiger to transfer in from an SEC team as he will join former Georgia Bulldog Christian Brown who averaged 12.1 points per game in 17 appearances last season.

Denim Dawson, a 6’6″ combo guard from San Bernardino, Calif., saw increased minutes early in Big Ten action as a redshirt freshman and made eight consecutive starts for the Cornhuskers. Dawson played a season-best 39 minutes against Penn State last season while averaging 14.1 minutes per game. Dawson is looked at a top perimeter defensive and overall excellent athlete.

Dawson was a highly recruited three-star athlete from Southern California Academy originally picked the Big Ten’s Cornhuskers over the likes of Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, DePaul and mid-major powerhouse Iona.

“Denim’s upside is through the roof.” Collins exclaimed. “We expect him to provide an immediate impact next season. It will be electricity when Denim hits the court, as his ability to attack the rim and shoot the ball are going to be counted on right away. Defensively he is a real threat as he will be able to guard multiple positions.”

“We targeted Jason as soon as soon as he hit the portal,” commented Collins. “His presence will immediately change us as he possesses great hands and feet with a soft touch around the rim. We also feel he can be an elite rim protector by controlling the paint. His time in the SEC should provide much needed experience for our team.”

“Adding 2 guys that come from one of the best programs in the country was a no-brainer for us,” said Collins. “We also believe both E.J. and Shanks will be impact players for us in the OVC.”

E.J. Bellinger, a 6’4″ guard from St. Peters, Missouri, played four seasons at Belmont, averaging 3.2 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. Bellinger’s versatility and athleticism make him a valuable addition to the TSU Tigers’ roster.

Bellinger set a career-best with 14 points knocking down all four triples against Valparaiso on December 1, 2022. The Missouri product had three other double digits games as a member of the OVC dropping 12 points vs Eastern Illinois on Jan. 24, 2022, and 10 points against SEMO (1/6/22) and UT Martin (1/9/21). In 88 games all as a reserve, Bellinger averaged 7.2 minutes per game.

“We are so excited for E.J.,” said Collins.  “He is an unbelievable young man that will add to our culture right away. His ability to score on all three levels will be counted on… He has done nothing but win his whole career at Belmont. We expect E.J. to be an instant impact when he steps on campus.”

Michael Shanks, a 6’6″ forward from Bentonville, Arkansas, spent his first three years at Belmont where he played in 73 games and averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. Shanks is a skilled shooter who will add depth to TSU’s frontcourt with the graduation of Adong MakuoiZool Kueth, and Zion Griffin.

Shanks had a career-best 16 points in a win over Kennesaw State on Nov. 11, 2021, when he knocked down four three-pointers in 18 minutes. A key reserve for the Bruins, Shanks played 15 or more minutes 11 times during his career OVC/MVC career. 

“We went after Shanks as soon as he hit the portal,” said Collins. “His toughness, experience, and ability to shoot are all needs for our team. I expect Shanks to bring leadership and build off his experiences at Belmont to help us get to the next level.”

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