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Kelly Hodge

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Ezell getting started with Lady Bucs

May 29th, 2013 7:32 pm by Kelly Hodge

Ezell getting started with Lady Bucs

Brittney Ezell knew she’d have to hit the ground running when she became the women’s basketball head coach at East Tennessee State.
She hasn’t really stopped for a month now.
Comparing her lifestyle to that of a gypsy — “clothes in a trunk and on the road a lot” — Ezell is on the verge of completing her staff and continues to evaluate recruits while getting to know her new team.
“Two of the three assistants are pretty much done,” she said Wednesday. “We’ll probably have an announcement by Monday. The third spot I’m still kind of toying with it. I have a couple of people in mind, but they’re in demand, too, so we’ll have to see where that goes.”
Ezell estimated that she’s looked at close to 200 resumes that came through university channels, and has discussed perhaps another 50 coaches through “unsolicited phone calls from friends I didn’t know I had.”
“It’s flattering that people want to be part of this,” she said. “My theory is that if people take the time to apply, then I’ll take the time to read.”
Ezell was named the new head coach at ETSU on April 29. She succeeds Karen Kemp, who resigned in March after 19 years on the job.
She inherited a team that went 8-18 last season, and has been trying to get to know the players’ personalities and skill sets.
“They seem eager to get going,” she said. “They’re asking about new recruits and wondering what else they can do. Several are still in town working out, which is nice to see. I’ve told them they have to go above and beyond, and they’re embracing that. I’m looking for hard workers.
“If it means enough to them, they’ll find a way. If not, they’ll find an excuse.”
Ezell said no one on the roster has yet expressed an interest in transferring elsewhere. The entire group will be on campus the second semester of summer school.
Ezell has signed one high school recruit since becoming coach — point guard Jasmine Hotchkins of Phoenix, Ariz. Hotchkins compiled very modest stats last season for a team that went 32-3 and was state runner-up, but Ezell, a former point guard herself, sees a huge upside.
“She played for the premier AAU organization out of California,” said Ezell. “She’s a sharp kid, a coach’s kid, a gym rat. She’s a fun kid to watch, and I think she’s going to be a fan favorite. We’re lucky she was still around late.”
The coach also has elevated sophomore guard Chandler Christopher of Greeneville to scholarship status. She still has two scholarships to offer for the 2013-14 year but may decide to hold them for the next recruiting class.
The Lady Bucs graduated only one senior, center Tosha Austin, but had two players quit during the season.
Ezell has formed some early impressions on what her team will need immediately.
“Statistically, and watching game tape, I know we need a shooter to open us up,” she said. “Athletically I think we’re as good as anybody in the conference. What we need to do is buy into being a good defensive team.
“Anybody can run-and-gun up and down the floor, but it takes hard work and dedication to play defense.”
When she’s not thinking about basketball these days, which isn’t often, Ezell is trying to get settled into the community.
She’s trying to sell a house back home in Franklin and looking to buy in Johnson City. The Carnegie Hotel has been her home for awhile now.
“When the people at the Carnegie know your room-service order, you’re hurting,” she said with a laugh. “This can be overwhelming, and everybody has really gone out of their way to help. I knew when I interviewed that this would be a great place to live.
“Like I said, the people make the place, and there are great people here.”
Men’s basketball coach Murry Bartow has also been sizing up assistant coaches in recent weeks. He needs two to replace Scott Wagers and Mike Boyd, and expects to fill out his staff soon.
Wagers took a job at Lamar, while Boyd has retired from coaching. Both men had been with Bartow since he came to ETSU a decade ago.
“Hopefully we’ll have something in the next week to 10 days on both positions,” Bartow said Wednesday. “There’s been a lot of interest in those two spots.”
The coach said he’s also close to filling one of his two available scholarships for next season. The recruiting class currently has four players – swingmen Maurice O’Field and A.J. Merriweather, and guards Devin Harris and Jaylen Riley.
O’Field, an explosive 6-5 leaper from Cleveland, Ohio, signed during the early period last fall but is still working to become academically eligible.
“He’s still got classes, so it’s too early to tell,” said Bartow. “We’ll know more here in the next two weeks.”
David Geno was enjoying a dream spring on the soccer field, but it ended with an injury that will keep him out of action for at least a couple of months.
ETSU’s star striker suffered what is called a “Jones fracture” of his foot while playing in a game in Victoria, British Columbia earlier this month. Coach Scott Calabrese said Geno will have surgery in the next couple of weeks and then faces 8-10 weeks of rehab. He should be rounding back into shape about the time the Bucs start preseason practice.
The non-contact injury, which is fairly common among soccer players, happened just a few days after Geno scored four goals in 19 minutes for the Seattle Sounders U-23 team in a U.S. Open Cup match.
The stop in Canada was just a tuneup before a second-round match in Charlotte.
“He was so excited and doing so well, really enjoying his experience with the Sounders,” said Calebrese. “He hates that it ended this way, but he also sees that if it was going to happen, the timing is fortuitous. If it had happened four or five weeks from now, he’d miss half of his senior season.”
Geno, a Dobyns-Bennett product, already owns most of the ETSU scoring records. He led the Atlantic Sun Conference as a junior with 30 points -- 11 goals and eight assists -- and now has 62 for his career.
His skills apparently translated well to the U.S. Open Cup, a tournament that features a mix of teams from MLS, the Premier Development League and NASL, as well as amateur teams.
“One of the things we were looking to do was arrange for David to get into an environment with good exposure,” said Calabrese. “The Seattle Founders are one of the top teams in MLS. From what I heard, a lot of the players were watching when he scored those four goals, and the coach was watching. He made a great impression.”

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