Reports out of West Virginia in recent days have included East Tennessee State’s basketball coach among a half-dozen prospects for the vacant job at Marshall. Bartow said he hasn’t interviewed and doesn’t plan to.
“I’m certainly planning on being here, so you’re going to have to deal with me a while longer,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve got a lot of stuff going on here. That’s where my focus is.”
With national signing day just a week out, and three scholarships in hand, Bartow is hoping to build on a 19-16 season.
Four of the Bucs’ top five scorers return, led by Atlantic Sun Conference scoring champ Rashawn Rembert. But there’s a definite need for big men, with the graduation of Hunter Harris, Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard and Lukas Poderis.
“We really need a little bit of everything,” said Bartow. “I love the returning guys — we’ve got a good core — but it’s evident that we lost a lot inside. With Hunter, Kinard and Lukas, there’s a lot of bulk gone. We have to address it.”
The Bucs signed a 6-10 center from Hargrave Military Academy, Karl Overstreet, during the fall signing period. Overstreet, of Lynchburg, Va., averaged 8.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks this season for a team that finished 32-8.
He suffered a broken hand early and missed 20 games.
“You look at his stats and they won’t wow you,” said Bartow. “But Hargrave has a lot of Division I players going to different places. One is going to Wichita State, another is going to Clemson. So there’s a lot of talent on that roster.
“The thing about Karl is that he’s a legit 6-10 and can run and move. We think he’s going to get a lot better. How quickly remains to be seen.”
There was hope this season that Ron Giplaye might have an impact for the Bucs, but the Providence transfer underwent heart surgery in August and never got in the rotation once he was cleared to play. He played a total of 23 minutes in five games.
Bartow would expect the 6-6, 250-pound junior to be discouraged by the results so far.
“Any team in America, if you go to the 11th, 12th, 13th man and ask them how they enjoyed the year, I’d say most are going to be discouraged,” he said. “Ron would fall into that category.
“The surgery took a lot out of him, the timing of that. He had a phenomenal attitude, but there was a point midway through the season where he saw the writing on the wall as far as playing time.”
Asked if he’s seen anything to suggest Giplaye can work his way into the mix next season, the coach wasn’t sure.
“We’ll see,” he said. “Those inside minutes are really there for the taking, whether it’s Ron, Ike (Isaac Banks) or Karl — and we’re recruiting some other guys.”
The Bucs may or may not have recruits officially on board next Wednesday.
“The signing period is a month long, and in a lot of cases the kids don’t commit right away,” said Bartow. “We’re in on four or five that haven’t even made their first visit yet.”
Bartow was in Arlington, Texas for the Final Four weekend and was impressed with what Connecticut accomplished in its improbable run to the championship. The seventh-seeded Huskies rolled to their second title in three years, defeating eighth-seeded Kentucky 60-54 in the final Monday night.
“I was really impressed with UConn,” said Bartow. “The two smallest guys on the court just carried them; it really jumped out at me how good they were defensively.
“You look at the last two years, with Louisville having Siva and Russ Smith a year ago, two little guards, and then this year with Boatright and Napier. Those guys can really dictate play.”
A Kentucky loss meant another gut-wrenching loss for John Calipari, the Wildcats’ coach and a friend of the Bartow family. Calipari made it to the championship game for the second time in three years — the Wildcats won in 2012 — using mostly one-and-dones, kids who will quickly move on to the NBA.
Calipari previously guided Memphis to a runner-up finish in 2008.
“I’m not sure anybody understands how hard that is, what he’s doing,” said Bartow. “He’s certainly one of the best coaches in the country, and he was right there again. John has become a close friend of my family … I know all the Bartows were pulling hard for him.”
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