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ETSU basketball coach Jason Shay

East Tennessee State men’s basketball coach Jason Shay is yet to name a starting five with the season opener against Abilene Christian at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Fort Myers, Florida just days away.

Now, there is more to factor into the decision. The Bucs got news Wednesday the NCAA had granted a waiver for Kansas State transfer David Sloan to play this season.

Shay expects that the 6-foot-2 senior guard to make an immediate impact as he does 6-4 junior guard Serrel Smith, a Maryland transfer.

“He wants to play so it gives us some experience at the point guard position,” Shay said about Sloan during a Thursday Zoom conference. “It changes our lineup pretty drastically with each time a waiver is approved. We have all 12 scholarship players available to play.”

Shay added he’s more worried about who finishes the games than naming starters. He likes the competition in practice and feels confident with the first game less than a week away.

“We’ve been improving and that’s all you can ask,” Shay said. “We have to continue to improve and be more gritty and stingy on defense. Offensively, we’ve been coming along and I’m happy how we’ve been efficient. Can we maintain that, give that winning effort on both ends of the floor and not beat ourselves?”

Shay is facing several challenges with a revamped lineup that looks nothing like last season’s Southern Conference champions who finished the season with a 30-4 record. With all the COVID-19 precautions, the Bucs haven’t had the benefit of preseason scrimmages or exhibition games.

“It’s a little scary as a new head coach with a new team,” Shay said. “Today was our 61st practice since July. We’re tired of playing against each other. Now, we’re going to see different philosophies and how other teams play. There are a lot of uncertainties.”

They’ve already begun the process of putting in plays to run against Abilene Christian. The Wildcats return four starters from last season squad which finished 20-11 and won the Southland Conference tournament championship.

Returners include 6-foot-8 forward Joe Pleasant and 7-foot center Kolton Kohl, who combined to average over 20 points per game.

“They’re going to throw the ball in the post,” Shay said. “They play a lot like Kansas, the high-low, throw it in the post heavy. They’ve got an all-conference power forward in Joe Pleasant. We’re going to have to be solid down there defending. It’s not just about them scoring, it’s about us staying out of foul trouble.”

He sees the Wildcats playing an aggressive defense, last season among the nation’s leaders in steals. While Shay expects Abilene to make it hard to get in the offensive sets, he likes how the Bucs have moved the basketball in practice and how the shot selection has improved.

STROTHERS SIGNING

ETSU announced Thursday that 6-foot-2 point guard Allen Strothers from Newport News, Virginia had signed his national letter of intent to join the Bucs next fall.

Strothers, the son of former Portland Trail Blazers guard Lamont Strothers, has career averages of 14 points, seven rebounds, six assists and six steals per game.

“Allen Strothers comes from a great gene pool. His dad played a long time professionally and he’s his coach,” Shay said. “That lineage will help him as a player and he should be able to contribute early in his career. He has good height and a good basketball I.Q.

“He can break down his own defender and find the open man. He can make shots and he’s capable of taking over games. Because he’s athletic with long arms, he can really add to our prowess on defense.”