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Fans can help A.J. at dunk contest

Joe Avento • Updated Mar 28, 2017 at 7:03 PM

East Tennessee State University basketball fans can help A.J. Merriweather in his quest to become the school’s second national slam dunk champion.

When Merriweather competes in the big event on Thursday night, fans can vote via Twitter as part of a “5th Judge” social media campaign. Tweet using the #collegeslam as well as the last name and score for each dunker. ETSU fans who want to vote for Merriweather should use #collegeslam #merriweather10.

The field has been announced for the contest, and Merriweather has some pretty tough competition.

Merriweather will be joined by Wisconsin’s Vitto Brown, Georgetown’s Rodney Pryor, Boston College’s Garland Owens, Fresno State’s Paul Watson, Wright State’s Steven Davis, Southeast Missouri State’s Antonius Cleveland and South Dakota’s Tyler Flack.

The 3-point contest will be highlighted by Villanova’s Kris Jenkins, who made the last-second 3-pointer to give his team the national championship last year. Also in the 3-point contest are UCLA’s Bryce Alford, Arizona State’s Torian Graham, Iowa’s Peter Jok, Duke’s Matt Jones, Iowa State’s Nazareth Mitrou-Long, Grand Canyon’s DeWayne Russell and Michigan’s Derrick Walton Jr.

Merriweather will be the fourth ETSU player to participate in the dunk contest, joining Calvin Talford, Justin Tubbs and Deuce Bello. Talford won it all in 1992.

The contest will be held Thursday at 10 p.m. at Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix and will be televised by ESPN.

The whole event is known as the State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championship. It includes the Denny’s Slam Dunk Championship, the Great Clips Men’s 3-Point Shooting Championship and the Marine’s Women’s 3-Point Shooting Championship.

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The ETSU football team will hold its second scrimmage of the spring Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at the practice field. It’s open to the public.

Thursday will mark the end of the third week of spring practice. After the scrimmage, ETSU will have three more practices before the annual spring game, set for April 8 at noon at Kermit Tipton Stadium. That will be the Bucs’ last appearance at Science Hill High School’s field. Their own on-campus stadium is set to open in time for the coming season.

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The ETSU softball team opens a five-game homestand Wednesday with a doubleheader against Presbyterian at Betty Basler Field. Action starts at 4 p.m.

The Bucs have won four of their last six games and bring a record of 12-16 into the doubleheader, which will be their last tuneup before Southern Conference play begins this weekend.

Mercer comes to town to open the SoCon schedule with a doubleheader on Saturday (1 and 3 p.m.) and a single game on Sunday (1 p.m.).

Erwin’s Tiffany Laughren continues to lead ETSU in hitting with a .424 batting average. Danielle Knoetze is hitting .398. The team record is .394.

Taylor Carter needs two RBIs to move into fourth place on ETSU’s all-time list. She’s also five home runs away from tying the school record.

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The baseball team will be home this weekend when UNC Greensboro comes to town for a three-game series at Thomas Stadium, beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m. Saturday’s game is set for 2 p.m. and Sunday’s is scheduled for 1 p.m.

The Bucs took a 12-9 record into their Tuesday night game at Radford. ETSU is 1-2 in the SoCon after winning the series finale against Mercer last weekend.

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The men’s tennis team puts its perfect SoCon record on the line this weekend when Samford and Furman come to Johnson City. Samford takes on the Bucs Saturday at 3 p.m. and the Furman match is set for Sunday at 1 p.m.

Ricky Rojas is the only coach listed on the team’s roster after Yaser Zaatini abruptly resigned as coach. Zaatini’s resignation still hasn’t been explained by the university.

Rojas was Zaatini’s assistant and also served as the women’s coach. The ETSU women are also home, playing host to Mercer Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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After a busy weekend that had the track & field teams participating in two meets, they’ll do it again this week.

ETSU’s athletes will compete at the Florida Relays and the VertKlasse Meeting in High Point, North Carolina. Both meets run Friday and Saturday.

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The men’s golf team will stay in state for its next tournament, the Mason Rudplph Invitational, set for Friday through Sunday at the Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin.

The Bucs will have one more tournament — the Wolfpack Open at Raleigh, North Carolina — before the Southern Conference championship, being held again at Pinehurst No. 9. ETSU is the reigning SoCon champion.

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The women’s golf team returns to action Monday and Tuesday at the Web.com Intercollegiate in Jacksonville, Florida.

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