When the basketball season began, Rashawn Rembert was a perimeter shooter who figured to give East Tennessee State a few points off the bench.
As the roster has gotten smaller, the sophomore wing’s role has steadily grown. And so has his production.
Rembert, who played sparingly in 19 games as a freshman, is now second on the team in scoring (8.4 ppg) and playing over 22 minutes a game. He has started the last three and led the Bucs with a career-high 18 points last Saturday night at North Carolina.
“We never want to lose guys, but when it happens it opens up everybody’s games,” said Rembert. “When we had everybody, I was more of a shooter. Now I look at myself as being a scorer. That’s what this team needs.”
It also needs a point guard.
Petey McClain is out until late December with an ankle injury, and Rembert has had to handle the ball against pressure far more than he could have imagined. That’s reflected by his 16 turnovers, which ranks second on the team.
But the 6-3, 185-pound Rembert appears to be getting more comfortable game by game. This is, after all, a guy who wasn’t asked to do much as a freshman out of Tampa, Fla.
“Last year I had little spurts of minutes to get out there and take my lumps,” he said. “This year I’ve not exactly been thrown into the fire … but something like that.”
The Bucs are 2-5 as they prepare to play at Mississippi on Friday night. They’re coming off a 78-55 loss at North Carolina, which could have been much, much worse. The Tar Heels opened the game on a 34-4 run.
With that in mind, Rembert says the Bucs were able to feel reasonably good about walking away with a 23-point loss against one of the nation’s premier programs.
“We always try to take something positive from every game we play,” he said. “Sometimes it’s easier than others. At North Carolina, we were a depleted team, but we fought hard in the second half.”
Lukas Poderis was an early casualty in the attrition battle this season has become for the Bucs. The senior forward tore an Achilles tendon in a preseason scrimmage against Furman in late October and is redshirting.
Facing a long rehab, Poderis has been on crutches ever since undergoing surgery a few days later. He’ll get his latest cast removed on Sunday.
“I’ll be in another cast for two weeks, then a boot with crutches for three weeks,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll be back in a regular shoe by mid-February.”
Poderis leaned on his metal crutches as he watched his teammates get ready to practice Tuesday in the Dome.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I wish I was out there.”
While the Bucs are waiting for their true freshman point guard to return, the Lady Bucs are slowly but surely developing one of their own.
Brianna McQueen has started all four games and shown flashes of all sorts of potential. She’s averaging 9.0 points but has 24 turnovers and just five assists, and she’s shooting 20 percent from the field.
Coach Karen Kemp says the 5-foot-3 dynamo from Jonesboro, Ga., simply needs to slow down.
“She has a whole lot of talent and ability, but she’s a freshman four games into her career,” said Kemp. “The last few days what we’ve been focusing on is that the passes you made in high school, you can’t make them here.
“I’ve been saying to her, ‘We need the base hit, not the home run. Home runs happen in high school. Now let’s go from first to second to third and not shoot for the fence every time.’ I think she’s starting to understand.”
McQueen was a prolific scorer at Mundy’s Mill High School. As a senior, she averaged 26.2 points per game and was named Region 4-A player of the year and an all-stater.
McQueen admits she’s had to drastically change her thinking at ETSU.
“I was a 2 (shooting guard) in high school and always felt like one,” she said. “I never liked bringing the ball up the court unless it was crunch time and I was going to take the last shot.
“Playing the 1 is getting to be more natural to me. I have to slow down and spread the ball around because we have a lot of people here who can score. It’s not like high school, where I have to carry the team.”
Installation of the new lighting grid above the center court in the Dome is scheduled to begin on Monday and run through Dec. 29. The Virginia Commonwealth game on Jan. 2 will mark its debut.
The Bucs are moving their only home game this month, Charleston Southern next Tuesday night, to Brooks Gym. It will be part of a double-header with the women’s game against Appalachian State.