July is always a big month for college basketball coaches, who spend much of their time sizing up prospective recruits in gyms scattered all about.
And it’s never easy to gauge how much progress is being made while you’re on the road, says East Tennessee State coach Murry Bartow.
“I get that question a lot: How do you think July went?” Bartow said Friday. “The answer is, we really don’t know. It’s obviously an evaluation period and you go to all these AAU events. You’re on the road tracking kids you already know about and finding new potential recruits as you go.
“I do think we covered a lot of ground this summer. You just want to be in a good position for the early signing period in November.”
Bartow still thinks he could add a player or two for the upcoming season. That likelihood drops as things get deeper into August.
“We’re not to that point yet,” said Bartow. “There are certainly possibilities of using (the scholarships), if we can find the right players to add value to our team and our program.”
n Bartow picked up an added scholarship recently when John Walton decided to transfer, reportedly to Troy. The 6-7 forward from Memphis would have been a junior this season.
Walton left because of philosophical differences with his coach. He spent most of his time around the basket, using his length and leaping ability to average 5.7 points and 4.2 rebounds, with 22 blocked shots.
“John really liked it here, but it came down to him feeling like he needed to go somewhere else because of the position where I played him,” said Bartow. “I felt his strength was more on the inside, and he wants to develop into more of a perimeter player. There are a lot of pieces to that on both ends of the floor.
“I like John; he’s a good kid. I hope he gets his degree and hope the basketball ends of it works out for him, too.”
n The Bucs are together on campus right now for the final session of summer school. A lot of the players are just getting to know each other and their surroundings.
Of the 11 scholarship players on the roster, six were not wearing ETSU uniforms last season.
Guards A.J. Merriweather and Devin Harris are freshmen, and guard Jalen Riley and forward Darius Forrest are junior-college transfers. Two others, forwards Lukas Poderis and Ron Giplaye, redshirted last season.
As a whole, the team has nine years of playing experience at ETSU.
Three of those years are by Poderis, the fifth-year senior from Port Richey, Fla., who has made 10 starts in his career. He has apparently recovered from the Achilles tendon injury that sidelined him last season, but is now down with a strained knee.
“Lukas hasn’t done much of anything for the last couple of weeks,” said Bartow. “The Achilles is fine; he and Brett (Lewis, assistant trainer) did a great job of rehabbing that. But he’s banged a knee and strained it, so he’s kind of nursing that right now.”
n There’s still no word on whether the Bucs might play all, or any, of their home games at Freedom Hall this season.
ETSU athletic director Richard Sander said in mid-July that the decision would have to be made “within weeks” to allow time for the many changes a move from the Dome would entail. Sander couldn’t be reached for an update on Friday.
Bartow, meanwhile, isn’t spending a lot of time worrying about the situation.
“I’m just waiting to see, like everyone else,” he said. “I know Dr. Sander and Dr. Noland are looking at all the options. If we were to go to Freedom Hall, you’d want to walk in there and feel like it’s ETSU’s home court, ETSU’s arena.
“I think we’ll know a lot more in the next couple of weeks.”