JOHNSON CITY (Nov. 4, 2015) – After a great deal of anticipation, the Steve Forbes’ era for ETSU men’s basketball will finally begin Thursday night at Freedom Hall, as the Buccaneers host Tusculum College in an exhibition matchup.
Tip is set for 7 p.m.
While there have been multiple preseason promotional events for fans, this will be the first time the new-look Bucs’ roster – with 10 fresh faces to go along with six returning players – will have an opportunity to play another team in front of a partisan crowd. As for Forbes, this will be his first game on the ETSU bench since becoming the program’s 16th head coach back in March.
The Bucs will not open regular season play until Nov. 14 at 4 p.m., when the team will host Averett at Freedom Hall. Tickets for that matchup and Thursday’s exhibition game can be purchased by contacting the ETSU athletics ticket office at 423-439-ETSU (3878) or by visiting ETSUBucs.com and clicking on the tickets link.
For more on Thursday’s game, read the game notes below or click on the game notebook link to the right. For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2015-16 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.
We are “ETSU”
The ETSU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics would like to ask both the print and broadcast media to honor our request to be called “ETSU” ... East Tennessee State University in first reference is acceptable, but subsequent references should be ETSU ... On TV graphics please use ETSU ... Our nickname is the Buccaneers, but Bucs is also acceptable.
The Steve Forbes era begins
It seems like only yesterday that Steve Forbes was named the 16th head coach in the history of ETSU basketball back on March 30, 2015 ... But seven months later and the Bucs are ready to begin the Forbes’ era ... Having most recently served two seasons as an assistant coach at Wichita State where he helped take the Shockers to the Sweet 16 in 2014-15, Forbes has been heralded for his recruiting ties and his extensive background as an assistant coach at the NCAA Division I level – which included a five-year stop at the University of Tennessee ... Complete bio information on Forbes can be found at ETSUBucs.com and general coaching records and other statistics are available on Page 2 and Page 5 of this media notes package.
It is a new day for the ETSU men’s basketball program, as the Buccaneers welcome first-year head coach Steve Forbes and his assistant coaching staff to the program for the 2015-16 season ... Forbes, a highly successful assistant coach at the Division I level at programs such as Tennessee, Wichita State and Texas A&M, wasted no time revamping the ETSU roster, as the program’s lineup has not seen this much restructuring since the start of the 1997 season ... Returning just six players from last season’s squad, Forbes and company have utilized their vast recruiting ties to bring in 10 new players to the program … This group of 10 will include four transfers from Division I programs such as Cincinnati, Indiana, Missouri and Witchita State, along with four junior college transfers and two incoming high school prospects.
A brief look back at 2014-15
The Buccaneers are coming off an up-and-down season in 2014-15, a year that ended when the Bucs dropped a quarterfinal matchup with Western Carolina in the Southern Conference Tournament, finishing at 16-14 and 8-10 in SoCon play.
Returning players to be counted on in ’15-16
As for returning players from last year’s squad who are expected to provide valuable minutes this year, junior forward A.J. Merriweather (Jackson) leads the group after averaging 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds a year ago, while providing the Bucs valuable defensive skills with a 1.3 steals per contest … Along with Merriweather, the Bucs also return senior forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville), who averaged 12.6 points a game last season, senior guard Petey McClain (Mobile, Ala.), who finished with a team-high 3.1 assists per contest, sophomore guard Desonta Bradford (Humboldt), who averaged 4.1 points per game, and junior forward Isaac Banks (New Orleans, La.), who finished with 2.9 points and 4.9 rebounds a game in limited action a year ago.
Newcomers galore for Forbes and company
While Merriweather, McClain, Wilson and Bradford return in the backcourt, the Bucs have also added a wealth of talent at those positions with the addition of a pair of Division I senior transfers Ge’Lawn Guyn (Lexington, Ky.) from Cincinnati and Deuce Bello (Greensboro, N.C.) from Missouri … Both Guyn and Bello completed their degrees at their previous schools, meaning both are eligible to compete immediately at ETSU, and both are expected to play extensive minutes this season … In addition, junior college transfer T.J. Cromer (Albany, Ga.) joins the Bucs after a successful career as a point producer at Columbia State, and true freshman Shemar Johnson (Columbus, Miss.) brings exceptional height to the wing position at 6-foot-6 … In the frontcourt, Banks is the lone returning player but is joined by 7-foot center Peter Jurkin (Juba, South Sudan), who sat out last season with ETSU after transferring from Indiana … Along with those two, the Bucs have also added help for the inside game this season by signing junior college transfers Nigel Holley (Wilmington, N.C.) and Abednego “Benny” Lufile (Burlington, Ontario, Canada), as well as true freshman post Toriano Stokes (Memphis, Tenn.) … Beyond those players that will be eligible this season, the Bucs have also added Indiana transfer Hanner Mosquera-Perea (Istmina, Colombia) and Wichita State transfer Tevin Glass (Greensboro, N.C.) who will miss this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
The series vs. Tusculum
The Bucs have played the Pioneers 61 times, and hold a 42-19 advantage in the series ... The teams played regularly from 1922 to 1959 ... Since that time, the Bucs have only met the Pioneers twice in regular sesaon play, with those games coming during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons ... ETSU has won 15 straight regular season games against Tusculum. ... Tonight’s game with the Pioneers is an exhibition and will not count in the all-time series.
Last time out vs. Tusculum
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 19, 2015) – Senior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) scored a game-high 22 points and two other ETSU players posted double-double efforts, as the Buccaneers dropped non-conference opponent Tusculum College inside Freedom Hall. ... The Buccaneers, who improved to 11-6 on the year, enjoyed a 17-point effort from senior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.), while junior forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville) finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore guard Devin Harris (Tampa, Fla.) finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds on the night. ... The Bucs sprinted out of the gates, building a lead of 20 points at 34-14 with seven minutes left before the intermission. At that point, ETSU emptied its bench and started using its entire roster the rest of the half. ... Tusculum took advantage of the Bucs’ approach to pull to within 13 at 42-29 by the intermission. Before the break, ETSU shot 50 percent from the floor and out-rebounded the Pioneers 22-19, holding Tusculum to a 31 percent shooting percentage. ... After the break, Tusculum managed to keep the game within 14 points for the first four minutes of play, but a 15-3 spurt by the Bucs finally increased the cushion to 25 points at 65-40 and ETSU never looked back. ... The Pioneers were led by Javon Price’s 14 points, while Chase Mounce pitched in 11 points.
Last time out
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (March 7, 2015) – Entering Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup with Western Carolina at the Southern Conference Tournament, the ETSU men’s basketball team had enjoyed 17 straight wins over the Catamounts, a streak dating back to the 1997-98 season. ... Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, they could not make it 18. ... Western Carolina senior guard James Sinclair scored a game-high 30 points – 21 coming in the first half – helping to power the Catamounts past the Bucs in a hard-fought 67-61 overtime win at the U.S. Cellular Center. After trailing for all but the first four minutes of the game, ETSU battled back to makeup a five-point deficit in the final minute of regulation and forced overtime, but the Bucs ran out of steam in the extra five minutes of play. ... Along with Sinclair’s 30-point effort, the Catamounts also got 16 points from junior guard Mike Brown, as both players finished with double-doubles. For the Bucs, junior forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville) finished with a team-high 17 points, while senior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) and sophomore guard A.J. Merriweather (Jackson) netted 14 and 11 points, respectively. Merriweather finished with a double-double courtesy of his 10 rebounds.
Challenging schedule awaits new-look Bucs
As for the season itself, the Bucs will enjoy several quality matchups, including road games at Villanova (Nov. 20), Georgia Tech (Nov. 22) and Tennessee (Dec. 22), as well as home games against quality opponents such as Green Bay (Nov. 17), UNC Wilmington (Nov. 28), Eastern Kentucky (Dec. 18), Chattanooga (Feb. 13) and Wofford (Feb. 27). ... Even more exciting for the Bucs will be playing the Green Bay game as part of the ESPN 24-hour College Hoops Marathon, as the teams will square off at 6 a.m. on Nov. 17.
Bucs picked 4th; Merriweather named All-SoCon
The ETSU men’s basketball team has been picked to finish fourth in the Southern Conference standings by both the league’s coaches and media, according to the preseason polls released by the league office on Thursday. ... While Chattanooga was tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the league and the Mocs’ Casey Jones was selected as the preseason player of the year, ETSU junior guard A.J. Merriweather (Jackson) was named to the SoCon preseason all-conference team. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams or student-athletes as part of the balloting.
VIP Seen publishes first Game Time Magazine for hoops
For the first time ever, ETSU fans can get a comprehensive look at both the men’s ane women’s basketball teams by purchasing the first-ever collector’s edition of ETSU Game Time Magazine published by VIP Seen Magazine. ... Game Time is available for purchase at local Roadrunner Markets, Food City locations, and at the ETSU campus bookstore. ... Full of preseason information, rosters, players profiles, a spring preview, and more, Game Time Magazine makes a perfect gift for any ETSU fan.
Three-point streak for Bucs dates back nearly 20 years
Since Feb. 16, 1987 in a game against Davidson, the Bucs have made at least one 3-pointer in 859 consecutive games. ... ETSU was 0-for-8 in that 1987 game. ... The Bucs currently rank as the 7th longest streak in the NCAA.
Wilson eyeing program’s 3-point record
Already a 1,000-point scorer, senior forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville) has an opportunity to put his name in the ETSU basketball record books again this season as the most prolific 3-point shooter in school history ... Currently ranking 5th on the career list with 210 makes from beyond the arc, Wilson finds himself 66 makes behind the program leader Courtney Pigram, who made 276 3-pointers during his career from 2005-09 ... Wilson has averaged 70 makes a year during his previous three seasons at ETSU, meaning if he can replicate his “average” this year he should have a shot to take the top spot.
McClain making place next to ETSU’s greatest PG
ETSU fans have fond memories over former point guard and All-American Keith “Mister” Jennings, who is considered the program’s greatest player ... What many fans may not realize is that current point guard Petey McClain (Mobile, Ala.) is quietly making a place next to Jennings in the ETSU record books ... Currently, McClain ranks No. 2 next to Jennings on the Bucs’ all-time assist/turnover ratio list, making him one of the two best guards in school history for protecting the basketball ... McClain also entered the year ranking in the Top 10 all-time for total assists (10th) and assists per game (6th). ... In fact, McClain matched his career high with 11 assists in the loss to Tennessee (12/31). ... A year ago, McClain ranked first in the SoCon and 8th nationally in assist/TO ratio at 3.1, and was second in the SoCon in assists per game with 4.2 a contest.
Bradford provides spark, shows signs of a bright future
With several key contributors not available for a game with Furman back on Feb. 14, 2015, freshman guard Desonta Bradford (Humboldt) was given his first career start and played career high 26 minutes ... He responded during those minutes -- especially in the final five minutes of the game when he hit a pressure-packed 3-pointer and scored seven straight points to seal the victory in an otherwise tight game ... Bradford has shown signs of this potential before ... With the Bucs trailing Wofford on Feb. 5, Bradford gave fans a glimpse of what could be a bright future for the former Mr. Basketball winner from the state of Tennessee ... During the final five minutes of that contest, Bradford scored 14 points and collected three steals.
Bucs postseason resume ranks among mid-major bests
The ETSU men’s basketball team has enjoyed its share of postseason success and ranks as one of the nation’s most prestigious basketball programs ... The Buccaneers have earned berths to the NCAA Tournament nine times (1969, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010) and NIT twice (1983, 2007) ... A year ago, the Bucs made their second trip all-time to the CIT Postseason Tournament, marking the program’s 13th postseason tournament appearance all-time ... In the Bucs first CIT appearance, ETSU went 2-1 with wins over Furman and Ohio, advancing to the tournament semifinals before losing to Iona in a hard-fought 83-80 contest at the Dome ... Last year, the Bucs went 1-1, defeating fellow Southern Conference member Chattanooga before falling to Towson in the quarterfinals.