Adam Sollazzo has landed in Romania for his first season of professional basketball.
The former East Tennessee State point guard is the only rookie signed by CSS Bega Timisoara, a first-division club coming off a runner-up finish in its league. He headed to Romania last weekend from his home in Florida.
Sollazzo had NBA tryouts with the Knicks and Hawks after an all-conference senior season, and he apparently raised his stock for a job in Europe.
“I think the workout he had with the Hawks really went well and gave Adam some extra juice, gave his agent some extra juice,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said Wednesday. “I know he’s really excited. This is a good opportunity, both in terms of the team and the league.”
Forward Dominique Archie, a former South Carolina player, is the only other American on the Timisoara roster.
There’s still no word on whether Hunter Harris is academically eligible to play basketball at ETSU.
The junior-college forward from Nashville had to complete his degree this summer at Volunteer State Community College to clear the way. Bartow said he should hear something any day now.
“There’s been nothing done yet,” he said. “I’m not saying there’s anything negative to report; we’re still in a waiting game. Hopefully he gets the right grades, graduates and will be in good shape.”
At 6-7 and 220 pounds, Harris could be a key piece of the puzzle for the Bucs this season. He averaged 22 points and 13 rebounds at Volunteer State and was an NJCAA second-team All-American.
The women’s soccer team opens its season today at Tennessee Tech.
The Lady Bucs played fairly well in their two exhibition matches, winning 1-0 at VMI and tying Appalachian State 1-1 here last Sunday.
“As always with exhibition games, performance is more important than results,” coach Adam Sayers said Thursday. “I think we’ve seen a lot of positives so far.”
The Lady Bucs are trying to build on a 12-5-1 season in Sayers’ debut. They were the regular-season co-champs in the Atlantic Sun Conference but were upset by Mercer, 1-0 in overtime, in the tournament semifinals.
The team was picked third in the A-Sun preseason poll this summer, behind Florida Gulf Coast and Jacksonville.
“Last year was a great step for the team,” said defender Ellis Parson, a sophomore from Wales who was named to the preseason all-conference team. “We need to carry that into a new season.”
The Lady Bucs are integrating seven newcomers into the mix. Among them is goalkeeper Sierra Campbell of Nashville.
She said she was drawn to ETSU by the facilities and involvement of sports science majors in the daily routine of the soccer program. She hasn’t been disappointed in her short time here.
“Everything has been impressive, better than expected,” said Campbell. “The facilities are fantastic, and all the girls are really great.”
The Lady Bucs will go from the opener in Cookeville to North Carolina Asheville for a Sunday afternoon match. The first home date is Aug. 24 against Presbyterian.
The men’s soccer team is wearing the bull’s-eye, having been picked as the preseason favorite in the conference. That’s OK with coach Scott Calabrese, who has built up the program from scratch in four years.
“Expectations changed as soon as we won in our third year,” he said. “We went 15-6-0, and coming back the next year required more consistency and maturity. We took our licks last season, but it was a good lesson for the players.”
The Bucs got off to a quick start last fall, winning six of their first seven matches and earning a national ranking. But they didn’t win back-to-back matches again until reaching the conference tournament, where they were ultimately beaten 1-0 in the final by top-seeded Florida Gulf Coast. They finished with a 10-7-4 record.
All in all, it seems like the program has come light years from its humble beginnings.
“Going back to when I came in as a freshman, the very first class,” said midfielder David Haba, a fifth-year senior from Germantown, “to be where we are now, with the amount of work we’ve put in, it’s amazing. I’m honored to be a part of it and pave the way for guys coming in now.”
The team’s leading scorer last season was David Geno of Kingsport, who collected 21 points on nine goals and three assists. The former Dobyns-Bennett star says he benefitted from the system that has been put in place, and the rising level of talent.
“It’s the players that are around you, that put you in the right position, that lead to success,” said Geno. “We have a lot of very good players now.”
The Bucs didn’t show much in their first exhibition, a 2-1 loss to Milligan College on Tuesday night. They host College of Charleston in their final tuneup Saturday night at 7.
The season opens next Friday night at Appalachian State. Other early testers are North Carolina-Greensboro, the home opener on Aug. 28, and a home game against UAB on Sept. 2. There’s also a four-game road trip that includes stops at Davidson, Kentucky, Winthrop and Furman.
“It’s a massive challenge for us to see how far we can progress early in the season,” said Calabrese. “I feel the depth of our team is stronger than it’s ever been.”
ETSU may have the best volleyball player in the A-Sun on its roster. Junior Megan Devine is the preseason player of the year, and she’s using the honor as motivation this summer.
“I take it as another opportunity to better myself and hold myself to a higher standard,” she said Thursday. “We’re all working hard, and the players around me helped make it happen.”
Devine, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter, is head coach Lindsey Devine’s daughter and has been groomed to play volleyball at a very high level of competition. It’s not always a smooth process.
“We have our ups and downs,” said Megan. “She has high expectations for me and the team.”
The Bucs, coming off a 15-16 season, were picked third in the conference preseason poll. They finished fifth a year ago.
Lindsey Devine has loftier goals for her 10th team at ETSU, especially after spending a couple of weeks in Europe this summer working for USA Volleyball.
“That experience just fired me up even more,” she said. “I wanted to take the things I saw at the international level, how important the pass and serve game was, and apply them to our team.
“We’re taller this year and more physical, and we have so many offensive weapons. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a group with this level of determination.”
There’s only one senior on the roster – setter Kayla Williams of El Paso, Texas. She welcomes the burden of expectations.
“I think a lot of the girls, especially the freshmen, look up to me,” she said. “So I feel like there’s a big weight on my shoulders, but it’s a good weight.”
The Bucs get down to business next week in the Gamecock Invitational at South Carolina. Tournaments at Clemson and Alabama will follow in early September.
There’s a home game against Marshall sandwiched into the schedule on Sept. 3.