Lukas Poderis has proven one thing: He can put up big numbers against USC-Upstate. Now he wants to show he can do it against somebody else.
The junior forward on the East Tennessee State basketball team is coming off a 14-point performance against Upstate, one that included three emphatic dunks. It equaled his career high, set last season against the same Upstate team.
Poderis gets his next chance to shine today when Mercer pays a visit to the Minidome for a 4 p.m. Atlantic Sun Conference game.
“I was just playing hard,” said the 6-foot-8, 230-pound Poderis. “I have to do it again. It was fun.”
Poderis’ emergence could go a long way in determining the Bucs’ fortunes. With J.C. Ward out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury, the Bucs need Poderis’ size in the lineup.
“He’s my roommate so I want him to do really good,” senior point guard Adam Sollazzo said. “Seeing him have a great game was really special.
“A lot of it has to do with us. If we get him the ball in the right areas, that’s what he does, finishes. Instead of laying it up and getting it blocked, he went up and attacked the rim. When you do that, you’re gonna be hard to stop.”
Poderis was hard to stop in his last outing, making 5 of 6 shots from the field and 4 of 5 from the line. His teammates say it wasn’t a surprise. They’ve been seeing it in practice all year.
“As a team, we know how athletic and active he is,” senior forward Tommy Hubbard said. “It surprised a lot of people, but we’re used to seeing him do that in practice.”
Poderis said he’s ready to take the next step.
“I have to take it into the game now,” he said. “You have to play hard. If you do it in practice you should be able to do it in the game.”
The Bucs earned their first A-Sun victory on Wednesday, an 88-73 victory over Upstate, and they had many heroes. Sheldon Cooley led the way by equaling his season high of 20 points. Sollazzo added 18 as six Bucs scored in double figures.
“I feel a little bit something coming on with our team right now,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. “There’s a real good vibe.”
Langston Hall, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, and Justin Cecil, a 6-foot-8 senior, share the Mercer scoring lead at 11.2 points a game. Jakob Gollon, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, averages 10.5 and three other players average more than 8.0.ww
The Bears (11-6 overall, 3-1 A-Sun) have a win over Georgia Tech of the ACC and lost to Seton Hall of the Big East in overtime. In the A-Sun, they’ve beaten Lipscomb, Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson and fell to Belmont 82-78.
“Mercer, if you look at their scores, they could win the league,” Bartow said. “They’re a very improved team. We expect to beat anybody we play here at home, but it will be a tough game.”
This will be Bucs’ second game since Bartow’s father, legendary college coach Gene Bartow, died. Bartow will coach ETSU today and then head to Birmingham for the funeral. He’ll miss Monday night’s home game against Kennesaw State.
The Bartow family will receive friends at Bartow Arena in Birmingham on Sunday from 3-6 p.m. A memorial service is scheduled for Monday at 11 a.m. at Veteran Hills United Methodist Church.