As the start of the college basketball season inches closer, some questions are beginning to be answered for East Tennessee State.
Among the big ones was the fate of David Sloan, a senior point guard who transferred from Kansas State. ETSU head coach Jason Shay announced that Sloan, the final player for whom he was awaiting a decision from the NCAA, was denied a transfer waiver. That means he will have to sit out this season.
“I heard word earlier this week,” Shay said Thursday during the Southern Conference’s virtual media day. “As of right now, David Sloan’s waiver has been denied.”
Shay said he was not given a reason for the denial. ETSU’s other two transfers, Ty Brewer and Serrel Smith, were granted waivers to play right away.
With Sloan not being available to play, the point guard position will be up for grabs. Two freshmen — Truth Harris and Marcus Niblack — will be vying for the spot with Smith, who transferred from Maryland and can play the point. Ledarrius Brewer, a preseason all-SoCon selection, could also see some time there.
“We’re still evaluating that,” Shay said. “We could possibly (start a freshman), but we’re evaluating a couple others. Right now it’s kind of by committee and we’ll see who’s going to step up and be ready to play that position when we start the season.”
ETSU still hasn’t completed its schedule, but Shay said he needs just one more game to get it finished.
The team’s on-line schedule lists six non-conference games. It doesn’t include a Dec. 22 contest at Alabama that is posted on the Crimson Tide’s schedule. Two more have yet to be announced.
The SoCon’s media event came a day after the preseason polls were released and Shay admitted to being surprised his team was picked to finish third.
“I look at all the inexperience and all the new faces and I was a little shocked that we were picked third,” Shay said. “I think a lot of that has to do with our reputation and the tradition.”
Wherever his team was picked, Shay said he and his new staff still have the same goal that every ETSU team has.
“The expectation has always been to compete for Southern Conference championships,” Shay said. “And that’s what we’re going to strive to do, although we’ve got an inexperienced group, a lot of new faces. We’re trying to learn a system that’s all new to them. We’re getting better each day, striving to improve each day. And so we will put our best foot forward.”
Last year, the Bucs were picked first and went on to prove the prognosticators right, winning 30 games and taking the SoCon’s regular-season and tournament championships.
ETSU women’s coach Brittney Ezell is hoping for a turnaround similar to the one her second Bucs team pulled off.
After the Bucs went 9-21 last season and saw their top two players transfer, they were picked to finish seventh in the preseason polls.
“Our first year at ETSU, we went 9-21, eerily similar to last year,” Ezell said “We had a lot of inexperience, a lot of young kids trying to get some minutes. And we bounced back with the largest turnaround in the NCAA that year and won 21 games. We’re trying to liken it to that.
“You know, you either win or you learn, and we learned a lot last year.”
ETSU has 21 games on its schedule, including non-conference contests at Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Ezell said trying to coach during the coronavirus pandemic has made her job more challenging than it’s ever been.
“Everything that they’ve been going through, from the abrupt end of the spring semester to the uncertainty of the summer all the way to their mental, their physical well being, the virus, the presidential election, the social injustice movement — it’s a little bit of everything right now,” she said. “It’s been quite challenging to make sure that we’re doing everything to assist our group of 18- to 22-year-olds. So that’s been the biggest challenge. If I can get to practice and we can get to basketball, that’s the easy part.”