With only three returning players, it might take a while for the team to feel at home on their own court.
“It’s pretty cool,” newcomer Tray Boyd III said. “It looks like a big time gym.”
The Bucs will test out Freedom Hall for real Friday when Southern Wesleyan comes to town for an exhibition game. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
“It doesn’t really set in with me that the season is here until we have our first practice here,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “Today’s our first practice here so now it feels real. We’re ready. It’s an exciting time. They put in all the hard work in the summer and fall.
“When I first came here I talked about having a home-court advantage, and I think we’ve built that over the last three years.”
Boyd watched the Bucs take on Georgia Southern last year and he said that experience helped persuade him to come to ETSU.
“I witnessed it for myself how it can get here,” he said. “It got loud and the students weren’t even here.”
Forward Bo Hodges and center Mladen Armus are ETSU’s two returning starters. They’re both coming off successful freshman seasons. Hodges was the Southern Conference’s freshman of the year while Armus was on the all-freshman team. Armus, who stands 6-foot-10, is up to 240 pounds.
“We’ve been waiting for this since the summer, but the season got here fast,” Hodges said. “We’re ready to play. We’re ready to leave it out on the court for the fans.”
Backup big man James Harrison is the only other returning player. He is the team’s only senior.
Joining Hodges and Armus in the starting lineup for the Bucs will be Patrick Good at shooting guard, Isaiah Tisdale at point guard and Jeromy Rodriguez at forward. Boyd is expected to be the first man off the bench and can play shooting guard and small forward.
Good, a local star from David Crockett High School, and Rodriguez sat out last year but were on the team.
“It’s a dream come true,” Good said. “I know that I’ve worked for this moment my whole life. I’ll have chills. I’ve dreamed about it a couple of times. Just to know the support I have from my friends and my family and my teammates … I really can’t thank them enough. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them.”
Southern Wesleyan is an NCAA Division II school located in the town of Central, South Carolina. That’s actually in the Upstate area, 27 miles southwest of Greenville.
The school has an enrollment of 1,883 and its teams play in the Carolinas Conference.
The Warriors are coming off a 2-26 season but have a new coach. Nick Pasqua, who was head coach at Tusculum University for one year, is in his first season at Southern Wesleyan.
D.J. Dobson, a 6-foot-6 senior, is the team’s returning leading scorer. He averaged 14.8 points per game last season.
THE REAL DEAL
The Bucs open the regular season Tuesday night against Georgia State in Atlanta.
The Panthers went 24-11 last season, won the Sun Belt Conference tournament and lost to Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament.