Nuckles determined to "right" the Buccaneer ship
Junior Brad Nuckles is regaining his old form.
Junior Brad Nuckles is regaining his old form.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

            At this time last season, ETSU junior post Brad Nuckles was in pain. He was frustrated. And he was unsure of his future.

 

            After putting on extra muscle in preparation for taking a more central role in the Buccaneers' frontcourt for the 2004-05 season, a foot injury was affecting Nuckles' production midway through December. In the end, the 6-foot-9 native of Council, Va., was faced with making a decision on whether to fight through the pain or take a medical redshirt.

 

            He chose to sit out the remainder of the season and save a year of eligibility. And for the first time in his memory, Nuckles spent a January and February away from the game he has grown to love.


            "It was tough because I have high expectations of myself, and things just didn't go well," Nuckles said. "It wasn't easy sitting there and watching the guys play."

 

            Today, Nuckles is back from his injury and trying to regain his game. After struggling in road trips to Tennessee and Radford, ETSU fans got a glimpse of the Nuckles they had missed in home games against Marshall and Belmont. He scored 16 points in both those games and is currently averaging eight points and 6.5 rebounds a game.

 

            The numbers are respectable, but Nuckles is not satisfied, especially when it comes to wins and losses.

 

            "When you're not performing well it's easy to get frustrated - both personally and as a team," Nuckles said. "I'm a team guy and more than the amount of points I'm scoring, I want us to win. Whether I score two points or 10, that's not what matters to me, even though I know I need to play well for us to succeed.

 

            "I still don't feel like I've gotten my legs back and I'm not jumping as well as I used to, but as each game passes I feel like I'm getting more in the flow of things."

 

            It's Nuckles unselfish attitude that helped him lead his Council High School team to the Virginia state championship in 2002 and the third-highest scoring mark ever in the state with 2,290 points. A highly-sought high school prospect, it was his heritage that kept Nuckles in the Mountain Empire and led him to choose ETSU as the school where he would play his college basketball.

 

            In fact, Nuckles would likely not argue with being described as a typical Southwest Virginia native. He values his family, grew up enjoying outdoor activities like fishing and hunting with his brothers and late father, and is still dating his high school sweetheart.

 

            "I still do a lot of fishing in the summer and spend a lot of time with my brothers," Nuckles said. "I met my girlfriend at an Emory & Henry basketball camp when we were both seniors in high school, and we're still together. Family really was a reason I wanted to stay close to home and close to family."

 

Having graduated earlier this month, Nuckles will enter graduate school this spring with intentions to study sports management. He foresees a future as a high school coach or working in college athletics at some level, but right now winning basketball games and returning the ETSU program to its past winning ways is a priority.

 

For certain, Nuckles is aware of the fans in Johnson City and their desire to see him play well. When he drops a long-range 3-pointer or tips in a missed shot, Nuckles knows the fans are with him.

 

"During the game you really don't notice, but my mom and family tell me how much the fans react (when I play well)," Nuckles said. "That makes you feel good. I think that's what fans expect of me because I had a lot of high expectations coming into my career here. I've not done as well as they probably thought, so that's my goal."

 

With his undergraduate degree already complete and the Bucs struggling early this season, it might be easy for Nuckles to move on. However, he has no plans to end his time in Johnson City prematurely.

 

"At this point, there's a 99 percent chance I'll be back," Nuckles said. "I think if I didn't come back I'd always regret it. Being with the team and around the guys means more to me than about anything else. I can't imagine not coming back and getting my masters degree. It would take an injury or something like that to make me think about it."

 

Certainly at this point, ETSU fans want to see Nuckles stay and reach the potential he expects of himself. Not to mention they want to see the Bucs return to the win column on a regular basis.

 

They can rest assured - Nuckles shares those same thoughts.

 

By MICHAEL WHITE

ETSU Athletic Media Relations

 

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