Bucs show depth, athleticism in scrimmage

Joe Avento • Updated Oct 19, 2017 at 10:26 PM

Steve Forbes showed off his East Tennessee State basketball team to the public for the first time Thursday night as the Bucs scrimmaged for about an hour and a half at Brooks Gym.

One thing quickly became apparent: Forbes has plenty of pieces at his disposal as his team prepares to defend its Southern Conference championship.

“I think you’ll see a lot of balance with this team,” Forbes said. “I think we can play a lot of different ways. We can play big. We can play small. We can play long, athletic. We can press. We can play man. We can play 1-3-1 with different teams. Tonight we tried to mix and match it a little bit, try to get a look at some different rotations.”

Senior guard Desonta Bradford, everybody’s pick to be this team’s leader, showed he can get to the rim about as often as he wants and he was having fun doing it.

“This was good for the fans, showing them what we’ve been working on getting ready for the season,” said Bradford, who is the team’s leading returning scorer and was a third-team All-Southern Conference pick last year. “We have a lot of athleticism. We can get out and run. We have a lot of unselfish guys and that’s good for us.”

Devontavius Payne also looked ready to pick up his scoring. The senior guard was second on the team in 3-pointers last season, making 47 in limited playing time.

“I feel like my role will increase by playing more minutes,” Payne said. “I like that everybody on this team is together. We play smart and play hard together.”

The scrimmage was ragged at times, but a lot of that was because the players on defense knew the sets the offense was running. Plenty of athleticism was apparent as the Bucs ran up and down the court.

“We shared the ball and had a pretty good concept of what we’re trying to do on offense,” Forbes said. “The ball didn’t go in the hole as much as we wanted it to. I don’t think we played off the post at times. I think we can score in there.”

Freshman Mladen Armus scored on a couple of nifty inside moves in the closing minutes of the scrimmage.

“They got tired and we threw it in there,” Forbes said. “We have to go in there earlier.”

Armus, who is from Belgrade, Serbia, and fellow freshman Bo Hodges of Maplewood, have fit right in with the upperclassmen.

“It’s going to be a process,” Forbes said. “We’re used to these older guys. Mladen’s a freshman. Bo’s a freshman. Those guys are going to have some ups and downs, but they’ve been really solid in practice. I wasn’t surprised they came out and did what they did tonight because they’ve shown that pretty consistently in practice.”

One newcomer who caught everybody’s attention was Jalan McCloud, a 5-foot-11 senior who transferred from Texas Southern. He was strong with the ball and showed an ability to score. McCloud played in the NCAA tournament last season.

“He’s got experience and that’s what we recruited him for, experience,” Forbes said. “He can handle the ball, he’s really good in the ball screen offense and he can score. He’s just got to continue to learn our system. In one year he’s got to learn a whole new system, but he’s done a really good job of that.”

The fans’ next chance to see the Bucs will be Thursday, Nov. 2, when the annual Bluenanza event is held at Freedom Hall.

In the meantime, Forbes, his staff and team will keep at it in preparation for the Nov. 10 season opener at Northern Kentucky.

“We’ll go back and watch the tape, evaluate,” Forbes said. “To get that kind of work in was good for us.”


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