ETSU Jason Shay

Jason Shay talks to his players last week as they got on the court together for the first time.

New East Tennessee State basketball coach Jason Shay knows he has a tough act to follow, especially since his team is coming off the winningest season in program history.

Shay isn’t backing down from the challenge. The external pressure for his team to win isn’t any greater than the pressure he puts on himself.

“I just want to meet the expectations and the standard,” said Shay, who became ETSU’s coach after Steve Forbes left for Wake Forest. “There is a lot of newness with the change, but that’s OK. We’ll work through it. Are we going to win 30 games? I don’t know. I can’t put a number on it. But the expectations, they’ve all been set before me and I’m just here to uphold them.’’

Shay was an assistant on the team that went 30-4 last season and won the Southern Conference regular-season and tournament championships. Now, after six short practices as the Bucs’ head coach, he’s starting to get a feel for his team.

“It’s good to be back on the floor and see some progress,” he said. “We have so many new guys and we’re trying to incorporate them into our style. It’s good to be down there and see the progress, see them improve.”

Shay says the Bucs should be able to score from all over the court, but he smiled when asked if he’s started working on defense yet.

“We’ve got a long ways to go,” he said. “It’s been up and down. But I think eventually we can get it because we’ve got a lot of interchangeable parts and versatility that will allow us to do some things.”

Only two returning players — Patrick Good and Vonnie Patterson — played significant minutes on that team. The rest have either graduated or transferred.

Shay says he’s expecting a bigger role for Patterson, who started nine games last year, and that Good will be one of the team’s leaders.

“Pat’s got a voice in our locker room, which is important because he’s been around, understands the expectations, understands the standards, the culture that we’ve built,” Shay said. “He’s got the backing of myself and the coaching staff. What he says has a lot of merit to it because of his experience, because he’s been in those big games. He’s been a significant contributor.

“And what he says should have some weight with the other guys because they haven’t proven themselves out there on the floor in an ETSU uniform. He’s vital to this team now and moving forward.”

Patterson played the role of tough inside defender who could rebound a lot and score from time to time. He had 14 rebounds in one game.

“I think he’s going to have a bigger role,” Shay said. “I think we’ve got guys coming in that can score. You know, we lost 75-80% of our scoring, whatever it was, from last year’s team. So there is an unknown. But I think we’ve got talented offensive players so we’ll find out who can take up that slack in the scoring. And, as I told him, it’s not going to be about their offense, it’s going to be about who can show the willingness, that determination, resolve, grit on the defensive end is going to determine getting on the floor.”

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