East Tennessee State basketball coach Murry Bartow still has one scholarship to offer for next season, and it looks like it may soon be two.
Bartow said Wednesday that Maurice O’Field, one of his early signees, likely won’t be academically eligible to play for the Bucs. O’Field is a 6-5, 190-pound swingman from Cleveland, Ohio.
“It’s very, very doubtful right now that he’ll be coming to ETSU,” said Bartow. “We’re still trying to get final word on it. It’s disappointing, but we knew his situation going in, so we’re not overly shocked.
“I love Maurice; he’s a super kid who comes from a very difficult situation. He’s had a lot to overcome, going back several years, and we really hoped he could make it.”
O’Field is an explosive leaper who starred at Cleveland Heights High School. He signed with the Bucs last fall, along with A.J. Merriweather of Jackson, another swingman.
ETSU added a junior-college forward, Darius Forrest of Jackson, Miss., to the recruiting class last week. He joins guards Jaylen Riley (Racine, Wis.) and Davin Harris (Tampa, Fla.) as spring signees.
Bartow says his two new assistant coaches are on the scene and trying to get up to speed this summer.
Bob Bolen and Thomas Carr were both named to the staff last week, replacing long-time assistants Scott Wagers and Mike Boyd. Bartow says the chemistry has been good — and needs to be.
“They’ve been on the job a week and a half, and we’ve got a lot going,” he said. “July recruiting kicks in very quickly, and we still have that scholarship we’re trying to fill. This is an important summer for the new coaches, just being around the guys and getting to know them.
“I do think change is good. These guys have fresh eyes and new ideas, and I think they’re going to pay major dividends for us.”
Bartow said formal roles for the revamped staff haven’t been established yet.
“We’ll talk a lot about that over the next month and see where it takes us,” he said. “We’ve just had a lot going here in the offseason. Quite honestly, once we got beat in Macon, I got in a rental car and took off recruiting. I’ve been going hard since that day, and I think we’ve gotten a lot done.”
Only four players are on campus the first session of summer, but the whole team should report for second session.
The ones who are around now are Lukas Poderis, Ron Giplaye, Hunter Harris and Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard. Poderis, a senior forward, is apparently fit to play again. He tore an Achilles tendon in the preseason last fall and redshirted.
“Brett has done a great job with him,” Bartow said, referring to assistant athletic trainer Brett Lewis. “The rehab has gone very well, and I think Lukas is pretty much at full speed right now. He’s a key guy for us because of his size, and he’s gotten bigger. He’s 6-8 and probably about 255 right now.”
None of the four players in summer school is competing in the Rocky Top League in Knoxville, but Lester Wilson is. The sophomore guard lives in Knoxville and has played Rocky Top ball for three years.
Wilson led the Bucs in scoring last season almost the whole way, until fading in the final weeks. He still averaged 13 points and 5.3 rebounds.
Bartow expects Wilson to be working hard this summer to improve his game.
“He’s like everybody; he’s got a lot of work to do,” said Bartow. “He did some good things his freshman year, but he’s gotta become better off the dribble. Obviously, he’s a very good spot-up shooter and a good defensive rebounder. He has to improve in those areas, and every other facet of his game has to change.”
The new schedule is still a work in process, and typically there is no telling how deep into the summer it will go before everything comes together.
“We’re getting closer. It’s just not done yet,” said Bartow. “I could finish it today if I got a couple of the right calls.”