The East Tennessee State basketball team’s roster might have taken a hit over the weekend.
Senior forward Lukas Poderis is out indefinitely after suffering an Achilles tendon injury to his left leg Saturday during a scrimmage against Furman. The full extent of the injury won’t be known until the results of an MRI are back.
“We’re not very optimistic,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said Monday.
Poderis, a 6-foot-8, 230-pounder from Port Richey, Fla., appeared in all 31 of ETSU’s games last season, starting seven. He averaged 4.0 points and 4.6 rebounds a game and his shooting percentage of 48.0 ranked second on the team.
“It affects us most on the defensive end from a post defensive standpoint,” Bartow said. “He was by far our best post defender. He’s our best offensive rebounder. It’s not ideal.”
On a team that lost three starters who averaged in double-digits and with seven players who haven’t played a minute for ETSU, Poderis’ experience would have been important.
“We’re not gonna whine about it,” Bartow said. “It’s tough, but you’ve got to move on.”
Bartow, ETSU women’s coach Karen Kemp and a handful of players took part in the programs’ annual media day Monday at Mellow Mushroom.
The men’s and women’s teams open the season Saturday with exhibition home games against Carson-Newman. For both squads, it will be a welcome change after weeks of practicing among themselves.
“The players are tired of each other,” Kemp said. “They’re ready. We’ve been going for a while so they’re ready to play against somebody else.”
The men have been going early, often practicing at 6:30 a.m. They’re ready to face a live opponent as well.
“Guys get tired of practicing,” said Bartow, whose team is coming off a 17-14 season. “They get itchy, they get eager. We’ve been going a lot in the mornings and going hard. Since I’ve been here, we’ve maybe gone harder the first two weeks than we ever have.”
Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard, a junior-college transfer from Roane State, has welcomed the hard work.
“We get tired of beating up on each other, but you need that part of it, you need a lot of practice, especially with the schedule we have,” Gadsden-Gilliard said. “Our practices are no-joke practices. A lot of rebounding drills, a lot of tough, physical things.”
That sort of practice is just fine for Gadsden-Gilliard, listed at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds.
“That’s kind of the mantra of our program,” Bartow said. “We’re very aggressive, physical, competitive. In our practices, guys get knocked down and guys get banged around. That’s the way we practice.
“Kinard fits into that. He’s been a football player so that doesn’t bother him.”
The women’s team went 8-22 last season, just two years after a streak of three consecutive Atlantic Sun Conference tournament championships.
“That was not any fun last year,” said junior guard Shawn Randall. “We’re real anxious to play. I have high confidence in our team this year. We’re just ready for the season.”
One prominent Lady Bucs player who looks ready for the season is Destiny Mitchell. The junior forward played tentatively at times last year as she rebounded from a severe knee injury suffered late in her freshman year.
Mitchell averaged 14.9 points and 9.0 rebounds a game as a freshman before having her season end when she suffered a dislocated kneecap five games before the conference tournament. She averaged 12.4 points and 8.9 rebounds last year.
“Destiny is back to the Destiny we all remember as a freshman,” Kemp said. “She’s better. This year she doesn’t have that brace on any longer. She looks comfortable. She doesn’t think about that knee anymore.”
After Saturday’s exhibition, the ETSU men open the regular season Nov.10 at Virginia Tech. The women have a second home exhibition, Monday against Young Harris, before opening up Nov.10 on the road against High Point.