The Bucs put on an open practice at the Basler Center for Physical Activity in front of a crowd estimated at 150, giving the fans a chance to see a team with several new faces.
“I thought it was good for our guys (to) get out there and have to play in front of other people,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “It’s always great to be in front of our fans.”
The best news was that the entire team took part in the practice after several players have been hobbled by injuries in recent weeks.
Patrick Good, the former David Crockett star shooting guard, is eligible this season after sitting out a year after he transferred from Appalachian State. Good appears to have kept his shooting touch during his year off, in which he was one of the hardest workers on the team at and before practice.
“It was a relief being out there with my teammates,” said Good, who is fighting through a hip injury. “I want to be a leader and help my teammates give the city some excitement this year.
“I’m excited beyond words because I know how much time I’ve put into this game. I know I can contribute to the team on and off the floor and I just want to be the spark plug that we need going into the season.”
While it was hard watching the games, Good said the team’s success — remember, the Bucs won 16 games in a row at one point — made it easier to take.
“It was tough but we kept winning, it just made everything a lot better,” Good said. “When your team is winning and everybody’s excited and there are sold-out arenas, you just want to help the team in any way you can. I felt like on scout team, that was my way of contributing to the team last year.”
Jeromy Rodriguez, expected to be one of the team’s top players, is also in action after missing last season with a shoulder injury that required surgery.
Rodriguez was the Bucs’ biggest supporter last year, waving towels, standing up and generally cheering his team on any way he could, even while in a sling. Forbes continually alluded to what a good teammate he was for the way he handled missing an entire season.
The 6-foot-7 power forward from the Dominican Republic said it was just his personality coming through.
“That’s something that comes natural,” Rodriguez said. “I just couldn’t help it. It’s just who I am. I just couldn’t sit down I was so hyped for the games.”
Seeing those two in the lineup — along with Bo Hodges, the Southern Conference’s freshman of the year who is coming off foot surgery — made Forbes a happy guy Saturday.
“I feel like this week we took a big step forward,” Forbes said. “A lot of that has to do with getting all our guys back on the court. Once we have everybody back, I think we’re a really deep team. We’re really good offensively for this time of the year. We share the ball and can make shots. We have guys who can score inside and out. We just have to take care of the ball a little better and work on our defense.”
Hodges, expected by many to be the team leader, was in his second practice back after injuring his foot during the summer.
“It’s great to be back,” Hodges said. “I was a little winded out there today, but overall I feel good.”
Several of the new players shined in Saturday’s practice. Good was swishing 3-pointers regularly, while Tray Boyd III, Daivien Williamson and Kevon Tucker all had moments. Williamson, a freshman point guard, caught Forbes’ eye.
“Today I was really impressed with Daivien Williamson,” Forbes said. “I’ve seen it in the last couple months, but he really showed today what he can do. I thought we shared the ball well. I thought Tray had some moments, a lot of players had moments. Our post players did some good things. I thought James Harrison defended well in there.”