By the numbers, graduation took more than 43 points and 16 rebounds from the East Tennessee State basketball team.
The intangibles are much harder to measure.
The Bucs lost experience, leadership and toughness when Mike Smith, Micah Williams and Justin Tubbs moved on. How that void will be filled remains a bit of a mystery, even to head coach Murry Bartow.
The Bucs start to show their new hand today when they host Tusculum in their first exhibition game. Tipoff is 4 o’clock.
“I’m anxious to see a little bit of everything,” Bartow said Friday. “With this team, there are so many unknowns. How are we going to guard? Where are the points coming from? Can former role players step up and be key guys, maybe stars? A new guy like Marcus Dubose, how quick can he get going?
“There are just a lot of questions at this point.”
Bartow will count heavily on his seniors — Isiah Brown, Adam Sollazzo and Tommy Hubbard — and all three will be in the starting lineup today. Junior Sheldon Cooley is also expected to start at shooting guard.
The coach wasn’t sure Friday how he wanted to play that other spot.
“There are different ways we could go,” said Bartow. “If we want a bigger body in the game, that would be Lukas (Poderis). If we want a shooter or perimeter guy, that would probably be Marcus Dubose.”
Dubose is a junior-college transfer who averaged over 23 points a game last season in California. He’s really the only player among ETSU’s top eight who is still an unknown commodity.
“J.C. Ward is right there, Jarvis Jones is right there,” said Bartow. “The good thing among those eight is they’re all juniors and seniors, and seven have been in the program for two years or more.”
The team has three players coming off redshirt seasons (Hubbard, Jones and Ryan Woumn) to gauge, and three true freshmen (Lester Wilson, Rashawn Rembert and John Walton).
Rembert, a promising shooting guard, won’t be at the game today. He’s back home in Tampa, Fla., attending the funeral of his grandmother.
“I’m eager to see him, but it’s important that he’s home right now,” said Bartow.
For Jones, the sharpshooting guard from Memphis, today’s contest seems like a long time in coming. He sat out last season and has been working his way back into the mix.
“I’m a little anxious, which is a good thing,” Jones said Friday before practice. “It’s been a long wait, but I’ve been working hard. I’ve really spent a lot of time shooting off the dribble so I won’t be a one-dimensional player.”
Jones played about 11 minutes a game his first two seasons and averaged less than four points. He was a 30 percent shooter from behind the arc.
The Bucs can certainly use some consistent scoring from the perimeter. Their best 3-point shooters last season were those guys lost to graduation.
They also need to develop some options inside. Poderis, who has played sparingly in his first two seasons, may get a long look early in the season.
“Lukas is playing better than he ever has,” said Bartow. “He’s active and he’s got a lot of body at 6-8, 240. He hasn’t played a lot for two years, and it’s time to step up and show what he can do.”
The Bucs shouldn’t need a whole bunch of firepower today to subdue the Pioneers. They’re an NCAA Division II team that lost 78-41 in an exhibition here last season.
Tusculum is now being coached by Michael Jones, who spent the last 12 years at Brevard College.
“It’s a new coaching staff, and we have no clue,” said Bartow. “There’s no scouting in a game like this. We just line up and roll with the punches.”
The series dates back to 1922. ETSU leads 40-19 and has won the last 13 games.