Skyhawk men’s basketball welcomes four commits for 2021-22 campaign

 Skyhawk men’s basketball welcomes four commits for 2021-22 campaign

UT Martin head men’s basketball coach Ryan Ridder has announced the additions of Bernie Andre, Darius Simmons, David Didenko, and Grant Hurst to the Skyhawk program.

Andre and Simmons are graduate transfers while Didenko will be a junior and Hurst will be a freshman on the 2021-22 roster.


Bernie Andre, F, 6-6, 210, Gr., North Miami Beach, Fla. (FIU)
Andre brings four years of collegiate experience – including three seasons at the NCAA Division I level – to the Skyhawks…Spent last season at FIU and also played two years at Northern Arizona, where he was the 2018-19 Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year and earned all-conference accolades in both seasons (2018-20)…Joined the FIU program midway through the season last year, playing in seven Conference USA contests under head coach Jeremy Ballard…Made a pair of starts for the Panthers, tallying 23 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal over 72 minutes…In his two seasons at Northern Arizona, Andre played for head coaches Jack Murphy and Shane Burcar…Poured in 763 points (12.5 per game) and 460 rebounds (7.5 per contest) while chipping in 72 assists, 47 steals and 16 blocks in 61 games (49 starts) in a Lumberjack uniform…Shot 44.8 percent (280-of-625) from the floor – including a 34 percent clip (67-for-197) from three-point range – and sank 72.3 percent (136-of-188) of his free throw tries…Averaged 11.2 points and 6.6 rebounds as a junior in 2019-20, capturing All-Big Sky honorable mention accolades…Was responsible for 18 double-digit scoring games and four 20-plus point performances – including a season-best 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting (with four treys) at Weber State on Feb. 8…Hauled in three double-doubles that season, including 20 points and a season-high 15 rebounds against Portland State on Jan. 25…His career-high of four assists came against Idaho State on Jan. 11 while defensively he had six multi-steal contests and blocked a career-best three shots against Omaha on Dec. 8…During his sophomore campaign, Andre ranked third in the Big Sky in rebounding (8.5 per game) and 13th in scoring (13.8 points per outing), leading to All-Big Sky third team and Newcomer of the Year status…Reached double figures in the scoring column on 23 different occasions, including a career-best 26 points at Northern Colorado on March 9 (one of his seven games with at least 20 points)…Registered eight double-doubles and snared a career-best 18-rebounds at Montana State on March 2…Was named the Big Sky Player of the Week on Feb. 26, which was the first time a Northern Arizona player had brought home that honor in over four years…Chipped in 10 multi-steal contests during his debut Division I season…Spent his freshman season at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala., playing under head coach John Meeks…Averaged 12.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while shooting .459 (139-of-303) from the floor…Went off for 19 double-digit scoring outings, including three games with at least 20 points (season-high 25 at Tennessee Wesleyan College JV on Nov. 3)…Started in all 28 games he appeared in and had a double-double (14 points, season-best 12 rebounds) in his season finale against Bevill State on Feb. 22…Divvied out a career-high five assists on four different occasions while swiping a career-high four steals (as part of seven multi-steal efforts) against Wake Tech on Dec. 30…Redshirted the 2016-17 season at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY…Played for one of the top prep programs in the country at Combine Academy, located in Lincolnton, NC…Before that, he also attended Miami Norland High School, which is perennially one of the best programs in the state of Florida…Helped guide the Vikings to a 23-8 overall record and the 2014-15 Florida Class 6A state championship in 2014-15.

“Bernie is a guy that our staff has known for a long time,” Ridder said. “He had a very good career at Northern Arizona. He’s a high-character player who is extremely versatile and can play multiple positions.”


Darius Simmons, G, 5-11, 180, Gr., Raleigh, NC (Lenoir-Rhyne)
Simmons joins UT Martin from Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC as he played the last four seasons (102 games overall) under head coach Everick Sullivan at the NCAA Division II level…Pumped in 1,215 career points on 47 percent shooting (383-of-815), nailing 40.4 percent (134-for-332) of his three-point tries and 83.1 percent (315-of-379) of his attempts from the charity stripe…Averaged 18.2 points per contest in the last two years alone, chalking up All-South Atlantic Conference accolades in both of those seasons…Wrapped up his time at Lenoir-Rhyne ranking seventh all-time in three-point field goal percentage and eighth in program history in free throw percentage…Averaged a team-best 18.6 points per contest during a shortened 2020-21 season that included just 16 games…Scored double figures in all but one game and was responsible for six 20-plus point games…Equaled his career-high with 33 points (on 11-of-18 shooting) at Newberry on March 1 and went 6-of-8 from three-point range on his way to 28 points at Queens just three days later…Made at least 10 free throws on three different occasions as a redshirt senior and swiped a career-best five steals on Feb. 22 at Catawba…Simmons’ junior year included a 17.9 points-per-game scoring average as he tallied 11 contests of at least 20 points and a trio of 30-plus point performances…Tied his career-high scoring tally with 33 points on an efficient 14-of-20 shooting against Anderson on Feb. 8…Dialed up six treys against two different opponents (eight attempts at Queens on Nov. 30, nine tries against Coker on Jan. 4) and made a career-best 14 free throws at Southern Wesleyan on Nov. 13…Career-high of eight rebounds came on Feb. 15 at Coker while he also handed out a career-best eight assists against Tusculum on Jan. 29…As a sophomore, Simmons broke the all-time school record for three-point field goal percentage, splashing 56.5 percent (35-for-62) of his attempts from downtown…Had 11 double-digit scoring games as he helped the Bears to a national ranking and an NCAA Tournament appearance after posting 21 wins – the program’s highest total in 11 seasons…Chipped in nine double figure scoring contests as a freshman in 2017-18 as part of 62 overall games with at least 10 points in his collegiate career…Redshirted for a year at Lenoir-Rhyne after a stellar prep career at Word of God Academy – the same program that has produced several NBA players including Houston Rockets guard John Wall…Helped the Holy Rams achieve a national ranking of 17th in the high school ranks during his tenure.

“Darius has a chance to come in and be a bigtime contributor,” Ridder said. “He’s scored a lot of collegiate points at Lenoir-Rhyne – he had multiple 30-point games throughout his career. He can really stretch the floor immediately.”


David Didenko, F, 6-9, 232, Jr., Yakutsk, Russia (Georgia Tech)
Didenko comes to UT Martin from Georgia Tech, where he spent the last two seasons playing for head coach Josh Pastner…Was part of 34 victories as a member of the Yellow Jackets – the most in a two-year span for the program since 2009-11…This past season, Georgia Tech won the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship and advanced to its NCAA Tournament since 2010…Saw playing time in 11 games during his Yellow Jacket career, tallying three points, eight rebounds, one steal and a block in 34 minutes of playing time…Began his collegiate career at Palm Beach State College, where he played for head coach Martin McCann in 2018-19…During his lone season in Lake Worth, Fla., Didenko helped the Panthers to a 21-9 record and was the No. 35 ranked junior college prospect in the nation (eighth-best power forward)…Played in 27 contests (logging four starts), averaging 3.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest while adding 25 assists, eight steals and a block…Scored a season-high 12 points on three different occasions, accomplishing that feat against Cape Fear (Nov. 3), Polk State (Nov. 17) and Florida National JV (Dec. 12)…Snared at least eight rebounds in four contests, including a career-best nine boards against Advanced Prep Academy on Nov. 30…Was also responsible for eight multi-assist performances and a pair of multi-steal efforts…Prepped at Boca Raton Community School as a senior while also attending Northeast High School (2016-17) and Montverde Academy (2014-16) prior to that.

“David has a chance to have a major impact from the time he steps foot on campus,” Ridder said. “He has a versatile skillset – he can shoot the ball, he can rebound and he can make plays for others.”


Grant Hurst, G, 6-2, 180, Fr., Cleveland, Tenn. (Cleveland HS)
Hurst joins the Skyhawks out of Cleveland High School, where he was part of a remarkable four-year run under head coaches Reggie Tucker and Jason McCowan…Helped the Blue Raiders to a 106-19 record during his playing career, winning three Region 3-AAA championships and making a pair of state tournament appearances…Was a three-time all-region, three-time all-district and two-time All-Region MVP who tossed in 1,469 career points, ranking fifth all-time in CHS history…Averaged 18.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per contest as a senior, chalking up Tennessee Sports Writers Association all-state accolades…Rose to the occasion in the biggest games, scoring over 30 points in each of his final two outings…That included a 32-point, 8-rebound performance against Collierville in the 2021 TSSAA Class AAA state quarterfinals, helping him claim a spot on the All-State Tournament team…Also made a pair of clutch three-pointers in the final minute of the game to lift the Blue Raiders to a 46-43 come-from-behind victory over Blackman in the TSSAA Class AAA sectional…Competed in the 2021 Basketball Coaches Association of Tennessee All-Star Game in March, earning a spot on the East roster…Was part of a 2019-20 squad that was the No. 1 ranked team in the state of Tennessee, starting its season with 29 straight wins and ending with a 33-1 overall record before the state tournament was cancelled…Helped CHS to a 23-4 regular season record and No. 3 state ranking as a sophomore, a season which featured a triple-double (35 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) against McMinn County, a 28-point effort (including six 3-pointers in the first half) against Bradley Central and a buzzer-beating game-winning shot to clinch the district championship.

“Grant is a proven winner,” Ridder said. “It’s important to add a player from Tennessee and he is a perfect fit for our future. He’s a highly competitive player who has a great basketball IQ.”