In this crazy year of the coronavirus, Jason Shay was back to doing what he loves this week.
Shay, the new basketball coach at East Tennessee State, opened practice Wednesday as the team began official preseason workouts in advance of the Nov. 25 start date for the season.
“Practice went really well for the first day,” Shay said Thursday during a video conference. “It’s exciting because it is the start of the official season when you know games are going to be approaching.
“We’ve got a little bit of consistency problems. We’re up and down, too many peaks and valleys. Guys are trying hard to correct things when they see them, but we’ve just got to do it more consistently on consecutive days.”
The Bucs had been practicing together on a limited basis and Shay says now they’ll start focusing on more specific aspects of the game.
“We’re coming along,” he said. “We’re going to have to move at a little bit faster pace as far as implementation and get away from the fundamentals and bases of our offense and defense.”
Shay said the revamped schedule is almost complete. He needs one more game to fill it, although only three of the nine non-conference games are official because they have received contracts back. The others will become official as the paperwork is signed and returned.
So far ETSU is playing UAB (Dec. 12) and North Carolina A&T (Dec. 15) at home and at Alabama. The Alabama game was originally scheduled for Hunstville but will be played in Tuscaloosa on Dec. 22.
“I’m in a better mindset today than I was a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “I want to get it off my plate. Scheduling is always tough for us because people don’t want to play us.”
That mindset changes a little when the subject turns to the scheduling of Southern Conference games. While no firm plans have been made yet, the coaches met virtually on Thursday and discussed putting potential buffer dates into the conference schedule in case positive coronavirus tests lead to multiple games being postponed.
“We’re still trying to get to a clear consensus and some clarity, but nothing has been set in stone,” Shay said. “We’ve got to come up with a plan.”
The schedule will include a multi-team event, most likely around Thanksgiving weekend. The Bucs dropped out of the Cancun Challenge.
FANS IN THE STANDS?
A day after ETSU announced an initiative to go to digital ticketing, Shay was asked if he thought fans would be allowed in Freedom Hall once the season begins.
“We’re in discussions about having fans,” he said. “You can see that they’re doing that for college football as a percentage of capacity of your stadium. So I think the plan right now moving forward is to have some fans there. And now what that percentage is, I think, is in discussions with the health department.”
Shay has already heard back from the NCAA on Ty Brewer’s eligibility waiver, but he is still uncertain about two more players — David Sloan and Serrel Smith — who are awaiting word.
The school petitioned the NCAA on behalf of the three players, hoping they would become immediately eligible after transferring rather than having to sit out a year.
Shay said up to this point, he’d been practicing as if those two would get the waiver. With the season approaching, he said he has to work as if they wont be available.
“It’s easier to plug them in than having them practice assuming I’m going to have them and then not,” he said.
Ty Brewer’s waiver was already approved.