JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 14, 2011) – The ETSU men’s basketball team will begin official preseason workouts later today, with a practice session scheduled for 6:30 p.m. inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
The Buccaneers, who open their 2011-12 season with an exhibition game against Tusculum on Oct. 29 at 4 p.m., will begin their regular season with a road matchup on Nov. 12 against Atlantic Coast Conference foe Virginia Tech. Game time for that contest with the Hokies is set for 2 p.m.
“We’re excited to get things rolling,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team is coming off a 24-win season in 2010-11. “We have a lot of questions to answer with the graduation of three really important players from last year, but we like the talent and potential of the guys we have here now. As a team, we’re ready to get to work.”
ETSU will open its home portion of the regular season schedule on Tuesday, Nov. 15 against former Southern Conference rival Appalachian State. Tip time for that contest is set for 7 p.m.
Season tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased by calling 423-439-ETSU (3878), or by visiting ETSUBucs.com and clicking on the ticket office link.
For more on the upcoming season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s basketball link. On that site, fans will find extensive statistical information, as well as articles previewing the upcoming season. For example, the story below is also available at ETSUBucs.com:
2011-12 Men’s Basketball Season Preview
While posting its highest RPI since the 2003-04 season, head coach Murry Bartow led the ETSU men’s basketball team to another successful season in 2010-11, a campaign that included 24 wins and ultimately ended with a run to the semifinals of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
Led by seniors such as Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) and all-conference performer Micah Williams (Manchester), the Bucs enjoyed impressive road wins at Atlantic 10 Conference member Dayton and Southeastern Conference foe Mississippi State, while also finishing second in the A-Sun Conference standings. Along with Smith and Williams, fellow senior Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.) continued to impress fans with his high-flying dunks, which twice landed him as the No. 1 play of the day on ESPN’s SportsCenter and earned him a spot in the national slam dunk championship.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, Smith, Williams and Tubbs have departed, leaving the team with the unenviable task of having to replace over 42 points of offensive production from a year ago – equal to 60 percent of the team’s scoring in 2010-11.
The Bucs will begin looking for those offensive numbers from returning starters such as senior guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa) and senior forward Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.), while senior forward Tommy Hubbard (Boston) – a 2010 A-Sun all-conference and all-tournament performer – will return to the floor after taking a medical redshirt season a year ago. Other returning players looking to improve their production will include junior guards Sheldon Cooley (Tampa) and Jarvis Jones (Memphis), junior forwards J.C. Ward (Marietta) and Lukas Poderis (Tampa), and redshirt freshman point guard Ryan Woumn (Lynn, Mass.).
The Bucs have also added a talented recruiting class that includes three true freshman and one junior college transfer. As opposed to last season – when the team returned a bevy of talented and experienced players – the younger and more inexperienced Buccaneers will face more questions than usual this season when they take the floor to open the 2011-12 campaign at Virginia Tech on Nov. 12.
When it comes to experienced players, Sollazzo’s return to the point guard position is a plus, especially after a junior season in which he started 28 games and averaged a strong 9.2 points and 4.0 assists. In addition, the team could gain some needed depth at that spot as Woumn begins his collegiate career.
Around the rest of the perimeter, Jones gives the team a solid shooting threat from outside and Cooley will once again provide an ability to slash to the basket on the offensive end. Meanwhile, newcomers Marcus Dubose (Hartsville, S.C.) and Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) bring with them resumes that are full of offensive accolades and should be expected to provide some firepower as well. In fact, Dubose is a strong candidate to be in the starting five early on in the season.
Hubbard will return after sitting out last season with various injuries, and is expected to continue to build his reputation as a tenacious defensive performer and emerging offensive star. Two years ago, Hubbard was an all-conference pick and led the Bucs with 13.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
Meanwhile, Brown completes an impressive trio of experienced and talented Bucs that includes Sollazzo and Hubbard. Last season, Brown finished fourth on the team in scoring with 10.3 points a contest, while leading the squad with 7.2 boards per game. This year, look for Brown to make a run at all-conference honors.
Along with Brown and Hubbard, Ward and Poderis return to give the team some added depth, while freshmen Lester Wilson (Knoxville) and John Walton (Memphis) give the team an in-state, one-two punch with a great deal of athleticism.
The Bucs will be challenged by early-season, non-conference road matchups against teams such as Tennessee, Virginia Tech and Clemson, while also hosting games against quality mid-major programs such as Appalachian State, Troy and James Madison.
ETSU’s conference slate will feature the usual suspects, with home and away contests against Atlantic Sun rivals such as Belmont, Lipscomb and Jacksonville.
Questions will surround the Bucs this year as they begin the season, but with a significant amount of returning players and a group of recruits with significant potential, the team has a chance to be battle-tested once conference play begins in earnest at the start of the 2012 calendar year.
The key will be whether Hubbard can return to his 2009-10 season form, whether Brown and Sollazzo can take another positive step up in their offensive production, and whether the team’s newcomers can provide some much-needed offensive firepower.
More ETSU Notes:
Projected Starters: Having started and played significant minutes over the last three seasons, expect to see Sollazzo, Brown and Hubbard in the lineup to start the season … This would leave the shooting guard and either a guard/forward position open on the floor … The battle for those two starting positions, and any remaining slots in the bench rotation are simply up in the air, with Dubose, Cooley, Jones and Ward early favorites to see playing time.
Anticipated Strengths: A year ago, the Bucs held their opposition to just 64.4 points per game, finishing second in that category among A-Sun teams … ETSU will add back its best defender in Hubbard, so the Bucs will have some potential to remain solid on the defensive end … With experienced inside players such as Brown and Hubbard, and a 6-6 point guard in Sollazzo, the team should also be able to hold its own on the glass and scoring inside.
Anticipated Weaknesses: With so many question marks on the offensive end with the loss of Smith, Williams and Tubbs, the most glaring questions will come when the Bucs are trying to score the basketball … In addition, the team has lost its top three 3-point field goal shooters, leaving that area as a major weakness … Only time will tell which returning players will step up to that task, and which newcomers can come in to provide immediate dividends.
All-American Candidates: Hubbard is the team’s only returning all-conference player, and two years ago he ranked among the nation’s leaders in double-doubles, posting 13 on the season … He would be the most likely player to make a run at All-American.
All-Conference Candidates: Sollazzo, Brown and Hubbard have all shown the ability to play at a level worthy of all-conference selection, but consistency is the key for each of these players if they wish to earn a spot on that list in 2011-12.