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Forbes sees versatility with this year's Bucs squad

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Oct 27, 2018 at 5:49 PM

East Tennessee State men's basketball coach Steve Forbes met with members of the media earlier this week at Wild Wing Café, where he looked ahead to the upcoming season.

Looking back at last season, Forbes spoke out how he was proud of how the Bucs went on the nation's second-longest winning streak at 16 games before finishing 25-9, losing in the Southern Conference tournament and missing postseason play.

The 2018-19 season starts with an exhibition against Southern Wesleyan on Friday at 7 p.m. with the regular season to start at Georgia State on Nov. 9. The starting lineup for the Southern Wesleyan game has been released with Tray Boyd III, Bo Hodges and Isaiah Tisdale at guards, and Jeromy Rodriguez and Mladen Armus in the posts.

When you look at the roster, there are a lot of guards listed. Do you feel you’re strong enough where you can also be effective in the half-court game?

Forbes: "I think we're probably better inside right now than last season. I've been harping on, 'I want the ball to touch the post.' It starts with Mladen, who has raised the level of his game and has led us in scoring in a lot of scrimmages. He's a great passer and Jeromy is the same way. They're good facilitators and the guards are learning if they throw it in there and there's not a good shot, they're going to get it back. I think this team can score from the 3-point line to the basket."

What have you seen that makes you say this could be a better 3-point shooting team than a year ago?

Forbes: "Tray (Boyd III), Pat Good and Kevon Tucker lead the way in that. Those guys made a lot of threes in the fall. Daivien Williamson has shot the ball well as a freshman. Bo (Hodges) did early in the summer. He's improved his stroke, so we have 5-6 guys on the perimeter that can make threes."

We've been talking offense and how you want this year's team to be inside-out with Jeromy Rodriguez and Mladen Armus getting touches on each possession. Is it safe to say you’re still a defensive-minded coach first?

Forbes: "It's a good place to start with the offense because the object is to outscore the opponent. We do have to get better defensively. That comes with time, comes with some game situations where you have teaching moments. The team has potential to be a good defensive team, but we've got a ways to go yet. We've got a hard schedule so we're going to have to get better quick."

Your teams are known for playing an aggressive defense with man-to-man and a lot of traps. How is the team playing a zone if needed?

Forbes: "I think there is a lot of versatility with this team. It's the way we've made it. We've got size, we've got quickness and athleticism. We will be able to play a lot of different ways and have a package of that. The base will always be the man-to-man and we've got to tighten that up."

What are the main topics looking forward to the Georgia State game?

Forbes: "It's like our first opponent last year, Northern Kentucky, was coming off an NCAA tournament bid and they had everybody back. It was a hard first game. Georgia State is the same way, picked to win the Sun Belt. They have a guy who is an NBA player in (D'Marcus) Simonds and some other good players back. It's going to be a tough environment and they play a little different style. So it's going to be a challenge to open up with a win."

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