National signing day came and went without an official basketball commitment at East Tennessee State.
Coach Murry Bartow said Wednesday afternoon that “nothing is on the fax machine,” but he was expecting the situation to change before long. He has at least two scholarships to offer for next season.
“It’s obvious we have holes we need to fill,” said Bartow.
The Bucs headed into the offseason after a dismal 10-22 campaign with just one scholarship available. Another came open when freshman Mario Stramaglia recently decided to transfer.
The shooting guard from Birmingham, Ala., played in 27 games last season, averaging 3.7 points per game. He was a 27 percent shooter from the field.
“Mario and I sat down and decided that it’s in his best interest to pursue other options,” said Bartow. “We’ll help him any way we can.”
Other players could also be moving on before summer.
“Things could happen,” said Bartow. “I don’t want to say they will or won’t. We’re still in school for three or four more weeks and will have more meetings.”
The number of available scholarships “can be a moving target,” he said. “We’re not always 100 percent sure guys who signed early will make it academically, and we’re not sure everybody we’ve got now will be back.”
The Bucs signed a pair of high school swingmen last fall — A.J. Merriweather of Jackson, and Maurice O’Field of Cleveland, Ohio. Merriweather led South Side High School to the Class AA state final, where it lost to Christ Presbyterian Academy of Nashville.
“They both had good years,” said Bartow. “A.J. is as good a program guy as you can get. I’m not saying he’s going to come in here and set the world on fire, but he’s the kind of player you want to bring into your program.
“Maurice O’Field is a good guy, too, but he still has some academic work to do. That could go on into the summer.”
Bartow’s team will see more than changes on the roster. There will be at least one move on the coaching staff.
“I’ve got nothing to announce right now,” he said, “but I will say you won’t see the exact same staff here next season. I’ve been lucky to have the assistant coaches I’ve had. Three of us have been here together all 10 years.
“I’ve got a good staff, but at the same time, we’re looking at every phase of the program and there may be one or two changes.”
Scott Wagers and Mike Boyd have been with Bartow since the beginning of his tenure at ETSU. Thomas Johnson came in before the 2010-11 season.
Bartow has had about six weeks to digest last season, which ended with a quarterfinal exit from the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament and a school record for losses. It’s still hard to stomach.
“I try to reflect every day, what went right and what went wrong,” he said. “This year was the perfect storm of what could go wrong. We were in a real tough predicament early. When we got to January and February we were in almost every game. We competed hard, fought hard, but just weren’t good enough.”
Bartow still stands on his record at ETSU, which is 189-135 and includes three NCAA tournament appearances and an NIT.
“Going into this year, we had won 41 games in the prior two seasons,” he said. “Most mid-major coaches would take that. And prior to that, we went to the NCAA tournament for two years in a row. I think we’re going to see more good things ahead for the program.”
The Southern Conference still looks like the best bet as a landing spot for ETSU if it leaves the Atlantic Sun. But the dynamics are changing fast.
College of Charleston, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are already committed to leaving the SoCon for new conferences. This week Davidson reportedly has received an offer to join the Atlantic-10, after turning down the Colonial Athletic Association last fall.
No timetable has been given for ETSU announcing its future destination. Southern Conference commissioner has said he would like to have any new members named by July 1 so they can participate in conference play for the 2014-15 school year.
The groundwork to build fan support for a new football program is quietly going on behind the scenes.
Mike White, associate athletic director for communications, said Wednesday that $50 deposits have been put down for 118 season tickets so far for the inaugural campaign, likely in 2015. The effort began on April 2.
Also, the Kickoff Fund is also seeking pledges of $250 a year from individual donors – the same amount students will be charged in athletic fees – for the next three years. Donors will earn “priority points” toward the purchase of season tickets and also receive limited invitations to special football-only activities.
Details can be found on the football link at etsubucs.com.
Another season of ETSU softball will end without tournament play.
At 0-19 in the conference, the Bucs have officially been eliminated from the A-Sun tournament for the third straight year. Only the top six teams from the regular season qualify, and the current sixth-place team, Kennesaw State, has already won 11 games.
The Bucs (12-29 overall) have just seven conference games remaining.