With six newcomers on his roster, East Tennessee State basketball coach Murry Bartow says he’ll have to take a broad approach to the start of preseason practice.
“It’s going to be a little bit of everything at first,” Bartow said Wednesday. “We’ll put a high priority on defense and rebounding, and offensively we’ll still try to play fast. But we’re going to need all the work we can get in the preseason.”
The Bucs get started today in the Dome at 5 o’clock.
Three freshmen — guards Petey McClain, Mario Stramaglia and Yunio Barrueta — will be on the floor, along with junior-college forwards Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard and Hunter Harris. Ron Giplaye, a forward who transferred in from Providence, will practice but not be eligible to play this season.
The team returns four seniors — Sheldon Cooley, Marcus Dubose, Lukas Poderis and Jarvis Jones, who is academically ineligible until after the semester break in December. There are two sophomores, Rashawn Rembert and John Walton.
Todd Halvorsen, a former Dobyns-Bennett guard, is the team’s walk-on.
The Bucs went 17-14 last season, losing to Belmont in the Atlantic Sun Conference semifinals. With so many new faces, they’re seen as a darkhorse contender coming into this season.
“For us to have a good team and good year, to have a chance at postseason play, our four seniors have to play well,” said Bartow, who is entering his 10th season at ETSU. “They’re all different types of players, and they’ll all play vital roles. The fact is, they’re our only guys with experience.”
The coaches and players are already pretty familiar with each other, having been together in summer practice, limited offseason workouts and conditioning sessions.
“We’ve been in school for 6½ weeks now, and the attitude has been great,” said Bartow. “We had the guys here for five weeks the second session of summer school, and we think it’s a good group. There are more unknowns, but it’s an exciting group with exciting potential.”
The public will get its first glimpse of the team Thursday at the annual Bluenanza festivities. The Bucs have an exhibition against Carson-Newman on Nov. 3 before opening the season Nov. 10 at Virginia Tech.