JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 4, 2016) – In his first season as head coach of the ETSU men’s basketball program, Steve Forbes wasted little time reinvigorating the Buccaneers’ program with an energetic style of play, an engaging approach with the fan base, and plenty of success on the court.
While his team has been participating in preseason workouts throughout the summer months and earlier this semester, Forbes and the Buccaneers officially began full-scale practice for the upcoming season late last week inside Gordon Ball Court.
The team will open its season on Saturday, Nov. 5, at newly-renovated Freedom Hall in an exhibition game against Mars Hill at 4 p.m., followed by the regular season home opener on Friday, Nov. 11 against Fordham at 7 p.m.
A year ago, the Bucs finished the season with 24 wins – which marks the program’s third highest win total in the modern era – and collected 14 victories in Southern Conference play, which is second only to the 15 collected by the Bucs’ 2003-04 squad. ETSU also reached the Southern Conference Tournament finals, which marked the 12th time the program has played in a conference championship game, and the team also earned a postseason tournament berth for the 13th time with an invite to the inaugural Vegas 16 Tournament.
Forbes and his staff reached these accomplishments despite returning just six players from the 2014-15 roster, but the coaching staff used its vast recruiting ties to immediately create an influx of talent to the program. The coaching staff has continued that trend of strong recruiting with another talented class of incoming players arriving on campus for the 2016-17 season.
Heading into the 2016-17 season, the Bucs will be losing players such as first-team All-SoCon performer Ge’Lawn Guyn (Lexington, Ky.), 1,000-point club member Lester Wilson (Knoxville), high-flying dunk specialist Deuce Bello (Greensboro, N.C.), and steady point-guard presence Petey McClain (Mobile, Ala.). Last year, Guyn averaged 18.3 points per game, while Bello and Wilson combined for another 16 points a contest.
However, not all of the production from a year ago is gone, as All-SoCon selection T.J. Cromer (Albany, Ga.) returns after averaging 14.9 points and a team high 3.1 assists per game a year ago. In addition, players such as All-SoCon Tournament selection Desonta Bradford (Humboldt), who averaged 7.6 points and 2.9 rebounds a year ago, and veterans like A.J. Merriweather (Jackson) and Isaac Banks (New Orleans, La.) will be back on the court for the Bucs. Post Peter Jurkin (Juba, South Sudan) will also return after a season in which he showed marked improvement throughout and finished averaging 5.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Fans will also get to see two new players on the floor this year that sat out as redshirts a year ago … This duo includes transfers Hanner Mosquera-Perea (Istmina, Colombia) from Indiana and Tevin Glass (Norcross, Ga.) from Wichita State. Perea and Glass are both post players who will quickly add depth and talent in the paint. Along with these eight returning players, the Bucs will also be adding five new recruits to the team, a group that includes a couple of Junior College All-Americans and a great deal of offensive firepower … The class is comprised of guards Devontavius Payne (Carbondale, Ill.), Julian Walters (Madison, Wis.), Jason Williams (Detroit), Jermaine Long (New Orleans) and transfer Kanayo Obi-Rapu (Greensboro, N.C.), along with forward David Burrell (Milwaukee). Payne, Walters, Williams and Long are all known as deadly shooters from beyond the arc and they have the stats to back up that reputation.
As for the season itself, the Bucs will enjoy several quality matchups, including a home contest with in-state rival Tennessee on Dec. 22. Other home matchups to mark on the calendar include the home opener against Fordham on Nov. 11, a visit from Detroit on Nov. 14, and critical SoCon games against Chattanooga on Jan. 28 and Mercer on Feb. 11. The Bucs will open SoCon play on Dec. 31 at home against VMI. The team will also hit the road to face Dayton on Dec. 10, Mississippi State on Dec. 14, and will play in the Sanford Pentagon Showcase in Sioux Falls, S.D., from Nov. 25-27.