Bucs set for final road games
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 22:02
Loading the bus for its final two-game road swing of the regular season, the ETSU men’s basketball team will be looking to build some late-season momentum when the Buccaneers take on North Florida Thursday night inside the UNF Arena.
Tip is set for 7 p.m.
ETSU is coming off a loss to Mercer last Saturday, but the team still has a chance to finish as high as third in the Atlantic Sun Conference standings with a strong finish over the final three games of the season. Meanwhile, North Florida is still battling to secure a spot in the postseason tournament and is in need of another victory to improve their league standing.
After several years of quality returning players and at least some level of certainty regarding what to expect heading into the winter months, the 2012-13 ETSU men’s basketball team entered this new campaign with several questions and concerns.
The loss of standout seniors such as Adam Sollazzo, Isiah Brown and Tommy Hubbard will be hard to overcome, considering that group combined for a total of 3,091 points in their careers. A year ago, the Bucs enjoyed quality wins such as a road victory over Atlantic 10 Conference foe Charlotte, and finished with a respectable 17 victories on the season.
The team finished fourth in the Atlantic Sun Conference standings at 10-8, reaching the league tournament semifinals. This season, the Bucs’ top two returning starters were guards Sheldon Cooley and Marcus Dubose, who have been dismissed from the team for violation of team rules and policies.
Along with those two, fellow guard Jarvis Jones and forward Lukas Poderis are the only other ETSU seniors to be returning after playing significant minutes last year, but Poderis has been lost for the season with a left foot injury and will be forced to redshirt, while Jones missed the first seven games of the year for academic reasons. Jones returned against Ole Miss on Dec. 14.
With so few experienced players returning, ETSU has looked to some unproven returning players, as well as a recruiting class that includes three incoming freshmen and a pair of junior college transfers, to come in and make an immediate impact.
Sophomores Rashawn Rembert and John Walton, along with redshirt freshman Lester Wilson have increased their production this year, while true freshmen guards Petey McClain, Mario Stramaglia, and Yunio Barrueta are blossoming into early contributors.
On the interior, Walton has been getting help from junior college transfers Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard and Hunter Harris.
ETSU and North Florida have met 16 times, with ETSU leading the all-time series 15-1 ... UNF picked up their first and only win over ETSU in the semifinals of the 2011 A-Sun Tournament, dropping the Bucs 59-55.
The Bucs avenged that loss with three straight wins over the Ospreys a year ago, and ETSU won the first meeting this season.