The East Tennessee State weight room rarely looks heavenly to incoming freshmen on the basketball team, but that’s the way Lester Wilson sees it.
The former Knox Carter star has enjoyed the freedom to pump iron at his pleasure since arriving on campus a few weeks ago.
“It’s a simple fact that I loved being in the weight room when I was in high school. It shows,” said Wilson, who is a sculpted 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds. “Now that I can lift every day, I love it even more. It’s like heaven.”
Wilson’s strength is a big reason coach Murry Bartow expects him to make the transition to college basketball easier than some others.
“Obviously what strikes you about Lester is his physical presence,” said Bartow. “He’s big-time athlete, which we knew. Like any freshman, he’ll go through a learning process, but in workouts he looks good.
“He wants to learn, wants to get better.”
Wilson was a highly decorated high school player, averaging 27 points and 13 rebounds while earning all-state honors. He was able to dominate around the basket with his athleticism.
With offseason workouts now going on at ETSU, Wilson is trying to develop his game from the inside out.
“I’m going to go with my strengths, stay at the mid-range until I’m good enough to go out more,” he said. I’m trying to get there foot by foot. I’m good now at 15 feet, and I’m trying to work my way out to 19.”
Of course, Wilson will also be trying to get stronger as he goes.
“Being in shape in high school is not like being in shape in college in any way, form or fashion,” he said. “I thought I was in great shape until I got here. Now I know I’ve got a ways to go to get where I want to be. I’ll get there.”
Wilson is one of four freshmen on the ETSU roster, along with guards Ryan Woumn (a redshirt) and Rashawn Rembert, and forward John Walton. He says it’s a pretty tight group that keeps him from wanting to get in the car and drive home to Knoxville when he has the time.
“I don’t even like to go home now,” said Wilson. “I’m still close to my family, but I’m developing some new family here with the basketball team.
“The young guys all get along very well. We hang around with the upperclassmen, but at least two of the freshmen are together most of the time.”
n The women’s basketball team is less than two weeks away from the start of camp, and no one is more ready than Tarita Gordon.
The senior point guard had to redshirt last season after tearing an ACL while playing with the Jamaica national team during the summer.
“I feel good, 100 percent,” Gordon said Wednesday. “I’m very excited to get started. It seems like it’s been a long time.”
When last seen in an ETSU uniform, Gordon was lighting up Xavier in the NCAA tournament. Her 30-point outburst capped a season in which she had to find her niche on a team that had talent all around.
Gordon had transferred in after two seasons at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.
“We had a lot of great players here that year,” she said. “I had to learn where I could put my little emphasis on the games. Eventually it became more natural to me, and I felt comfortable at the end of the season.”
And then she suffered the knee injury a few months later, relegating her to spectator status last season as the Lady Bucs saw their three-year run as Atlantic Sun Conference champs end.
Gordon tried to make the most of it.
“Just observing and seeing things from a different point of view,” she said. “I think I have a better understanding of the game now.”
n Coach Tony Skole is trying to get a feel for his revamped baseball team in fall workouts.
The Bucs have been practicing at Joe O’Brien Field in Elizabethton for the last two weeks. There are nine new players and two new assistant coaches, Xan Barksdale and Kyle Bunn.
Gone are program pillars Paul Hoilman, Derek Trent and Bo Reeder. All three were taken in the major-league draft in June.
“Those guys were such an integral part of the program for four years,” said Skole. “Their familiarity with the system and their leadership on and off the field will be hard to replace. We penciled them into the lineup every day, usually in the 2-3-4 spots.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys in the mix now, fighting for playing time.”
New is the theme for the Bucs.
Along with the personnel changes, they’re also planning to play in a new ballpark next spring. It’s a good bet the balls won’t be flying out of there quite like they did at Cardinal Park.
“We’ll be a different offensive team, not having that thunder like we’ve had the last four or five years,” said Skole. “I don’t anticipate us leading the nation in home runs this year.”
The team will split up and play its annual Blue and Gold Fall World Series at Joe O’Brien from Oct. 14-16.
n The softball team will play eight games this fall, beginning with a double-header today at Betty Basler Field against Milligan. First pitch is set for 5 o’clock.
The Lady Bucs will host tournaments the next two weekends.