CHARLESTON, S.C. — Barclay Radebaugh has come a long way with the Charleston Southern basketball program the last few years.
The coach will try to show his alma mater just how far tonight when East Tennessee State visits cozy CSU Field House for a battle of the Bucs. Gametime is 7:30.
“This has been a rebuilding process for sure,” said Radebaugh, a 1987 ETSU graduate who is in his eighth season at Charleston Southern. “The last four years we’ve won more games each year, and I hope we’ve turned the corner. This game with East Tennessee State will be a good barometer for us, because we’ve played two bigger schools and a much smaller school. This should be a good test.”
Charleston Southern was scrappy in a 68-58 season-opening loss at Charlotte, then pushed 12th-ranked Arizona to the finish in Tucson before falling 82-73. The Bucs rolled over Hiwassee 105-69 in their home opener.
Radebaugh’s team is coming off a 19-12 season — its first winning season in 15 years. With four starters returning, including all-conference guards Saah Nimley and Arion Harper, the Bucs have been picked to win their division in the Big South.
They have played the Bucs of ETSU only three times previously, and not since 1979. They lost all three.
Seeing those ETSU uniforms tonight will certainly bring back a few fond memories for Radebaugh, who joined Les Robinson’s staff as a graduate assistant in 1986.
Radebaugh just missed experiencing the heyday of ETSU basketball up-close and personal. He was ready to move on with his career as a new recruiting class with future stars named Jennings and Dennis was arriving.
The Bucs began a run of four straight Southern Conference championships the next season, and Radebaugh headed down a coaching path that has taken him to Wofford, Furman, South Carolina, Winthrop, Queen’s University in Charlotte, Miami and, now, the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
“I left East Tennessee to go to Wofford during Mister and Greg’s freshman year,” said Radebaugh, “so I missed the glory days. But I really enjoyed my time with Les Robinson, Alan LeForce, Dave Hanners. It was a tremendous learning experience for a young guy being around three great coaches like that.”
Radebaugh, a Lincolnton, N.C., native, left Johnson City with more than just coaching knowledge.
“First of all,” he said, “the best thing that happened to me was meeting Hope. She’s just an unbelievable coach’s wife and an unbelievable person. We have three kids now.
“Every one of my memories up there are fond. I love ETSU and love that area.”
Of course, Radebaugh will set his love aside for a couple of hours tonight and try to beat his old team. He isn’t sure what to expect from ETSU, which is loaded with new players and has been ragged in losing its first two games.
“I really think they’ll be the most athletic team we’ll have played,” he said, “and they play extremely hard. I think they’re kind of in the same mold we are — a work in progress.
“These pre-Christmas games are so valuable for us to find ourselves and solidify a rotation.”
Coach Murry Bartow’s team is coming off a 65-62 home loss to Tennessee Tech on Saturday in which it rallied late from a 13-point deficit and had a shot to tie at the buzzer. Sheldon Cooley’s 3-pointer was well off the mark, leaving the Bucs to continue to search for their first victory.
Notes: Bartow hopes Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard will be fit to play today. The junior forward rolled an ankle in practice a week ago and sat out the Tennessee Tech game. ...
Redshirt freshman Lester Wilson is ETSU’s leading scorer after two games, with a 16.0 average. Dubose (16.1) is the other double-figure scorer. ...
Charleston Southern is being led by Harper (13.0) and Nimley (12.7). They’re both sophomores.
Senior foward Mathiang Muo, a native Australian, averages 12.3. ...
The CSU Field House — or Buc Dome, as it’s called here — is reportedly the smallest Division I gym in the country. It seats 881.
For bigger games, like those against College of Charleston and The Citadel, the team moves over to the North Charleston Coliseum. ...
ETSU and Charleston Southern will meet again this season, Dec. 18 in Johnson City. ETSU will play five games before the rematch.