logo



Bucs in midst of practice for European trip

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Jul 27, 2019 at 8:08 PM

The East Tennessee State basketball team is getting ready for the courts of Eastern Europe, although hoops are just part of why coach Steve Forbes and his players are excited for the trip from Aug. 9-21.

For some, Forbes sees it as a chance to get a small taste of Europe before playing overseas professionally. The Bucs are scheduled to open against Basketball Club Lokomotiv Pilsen in the Czech Republic on Monday, Aug. 12.

“It will be a great cultural and educational experience for them,” Forbes said before Saturday’s practice at the Gordon Ball Court inside the Mini-Dome. “The majority of these guys will probably play overseas and it gives them a chance to taste what life might be like a few years from now.

“It’s a chance to go where they’ve never been and to play against guys who are battle-tested and know how to play. It will be good for the educational, cultural and basketball parts.”

Three players who were interviewed — Bo Hodges, Tray Boyd III and Isaiah Tisdale — have never been outside the United States. They are intrigued by both the cultural and basketball sides of the trip.

“For the team, it not only helps us get ready for the season, but we see something different,” Boyd said. “I’ve never been out of the country, but I’m excited about Germany. Off the court, it’s exciting to see how the world is with the different cultures.”

Tisdale added: “I’m excited for it and my parents are excited for it. It’s great to be able to see the world outside of the United States. I can’t wait to go out there and play against professionals. I want to have a good time, but also build chemistry with my teammates and get ready for the season.”

Forbes, who is a history major, is looking forward to visiting some of the World War II sites and cities like Munich and Nuremberg — where he hasn’t been.

“It’s a great time for our team to bond,” Forbes said. “I’ve been on a trip like this before when I was at Tennessee and we came back and had a great year. It’s why I waited until we had a bunch of guys back before we did something like this. It gives them a chance to bond and have a lifetime experience.”

HOOP DREAMS

The Bucs are scheduled to face Vasa Academy, which finished seventh last season in the NB 1B Hungarian league, on Saturday, Aug. 17 in Budapest. Two days later, the opponent is BKG PRIMA SE, coming off a fifth-place finish in the 24-team NB 1B league. One American player on the roster is former Texas-San Antonio star Nick Allen, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward.

“The experience of playing at that level, these guys know how to play and they don’t make mistakes,” Forbes said. “They’re tough and they can shoot. It will be good for our team.”

It gives the Bucs an early test with the new 3-point line, which has been moved to match the international line. Going up against the European teams, ETSU’s players also look forward to a different style of basketball.

“The competition is going to be more aggressive, more physical,” Tisdale said. “If we can adjust to that, it will definitely help us when we come back in the states and play NCAA ball.”

Boyd added: “We have to handle our business and make sure we’re playing basketball good as a team. I think this will be great for the upcoming season. It will help us with team chemistry, to go against someone else and to see where we stand. It should help us become better each day.”

HOME AND FAMILY

While the team isn’t visiting his home country of The Netherlands, it’s a chance for 7-foot senior center Lucas N’Guessan to share the European culture with his teammates in a role reversal from the norm.

“Even though we’re not going to The Netherlands, I’m looking forward to showing them where I’m from and my culture,” N’Guessan said. “It’s going to be good to play with the new players and get a chemistry going with the team bonding. It’s been a minute since my dad has seen me play. My parents are going to see me in Vienna and my brothers might get to see me in Munich.”

OFF THE COURT

Three players — Patrick Good, Jeromy Rodriguez and newcomer Vonnie Patterson — won’t be playing in Europe.

Good is recovering from knee surgery and hopes to be back in the fall. Rodriguez is sitting out with a foot injury and Patterson hasn’t been on the court since being injured the first day of practice. He looks to return to the court this week, but isn’t scheduled to play during the two-week trip.

In their absence, freshmen Damari Monsanto and Charlie Weber have spent more time to be on the court.

Johnson City Press Videos