ETSU men's hoops set for exhibition home opener against Mars Hill
Sophomore Mike Smith was an All A-Sun Freshman Team pick a year ago.
Sophomore Mike Smith was an All A-Sun Freshman Team pick a year ago.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

     

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 1, 2007) - The ETSU men's basketball team is wrapping up final preparations for its first exhibition game of the year, as the Buccaneers will take on Mars Hill in their 2007-08 home opener Saturday at 4 p.m. inside Memorial Center.

 

The Bucs, who are coming off a championship season last year, went 24-10 overall and 16-2 in Atlantic Sun Conference play. This year, ETSU will be looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004 and will return several of its key contributors to that championship squad from a year ago, including 2007 A-Sun Player of the Year Courtney Pigram (Memphis) and All-Freshman Team pick Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.).

 

Fans can listen to the live game broadcast on any of the Mountain States Health Alliance Buccaneer Sports Network's radio affiliates, including new flagship station 104.9 FM The Peak in the Tri-Cities. Those unable to pick up the radio broadcast can also listen live on the audio link located at ETSUBucs.com, and a video on-demand replay of the game will be available Saturday evening at ASun.TV.

 

For a complete season preview, see below:

 

A seven-time NCAA Tournament participant, the ETSU Buccaneers enter the 2007-08 season fresh off an Atlantic Sun Conference regular season championship and the program's second trip to the National Invitation Tournament. With a 24-10 overall record and a 16-2 conference mark a year ago, the Bucs have built a great deal of excitement and momentum heading into the upcoming campaign.

 

The Bucs, who will be looking to make their third trip to the NCAA Tournament in the last six seasons, will be led by junior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis), who comes off a season in which he averaged 18.1 points and 3.7 assists per game on way to being named the A-Sun Player of the Year. While Pigram is the team's most heralded star, he is joined by a group of talented returning players including A-Sun All-Freshman team selection guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.), sophomore guard Dequan Twilley (Shelbyville), senior post Andrew Reed (Port Richey, Fla.) and senior forward Kenyona Swader (Smyrna). In addition, fifth-year senior Travis Strong (Memphis), the only remaining link to the Bucs' last NCAA Tournament trip in 2004, returns from a knee injury that cost him the 2006-07 season, while redshirt freshman Micah Williams (Manchester) hopes a year of working out and developing his talents pays off.

 

One newcomer that will be looked upon to provide significant playing time includes JuCo Division II Player of the Year Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.), a 6-4 swingman who has demonstrated strong leadership skills and significant athleticism in preseason workouts. Along with Tiggs, freshmen such as 6-8 forward Isiah Brown (Miami), 6-1 guard Jacolby Davis (Meridian, Miss.), 6-4 guard Tommy Hubbard (Boston), and 6-7 JuCo forward Greg Hamlin (Flint, Mich.), will also battle for playing time.

 

While the Bucs have the type of returning players and newcomers to build some preseason enthusiasm, a brutal pre-conference schedule will test the Bucs early and often. For instance, along with home games against 2007 NCAA Tournament participant Eastern Kentucky (Nov. 17) and 2007 NIT participant Appalachian State (Dec. 30), the Bucs will play a three-game road swing beginning at Big 12 member Oklahoma State (Dec. 8), then facing Big East foe Syracuse (Dec. 15), and meeting SEC opponent Georgia (Dec. 21) in the first round of the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii. 

 

Backcourt

 

Along with Pigram, 2007 A-Sun Coach of the Year Murry Bartow will enter his fifth season at the helm of the Buccaneer ship with the core of his backcourt still intact. Smith returns after a season in which he finished second on the team with an average of 11 points and 3.7 rebounds a game at the wing, with Twilley back after averaging a team-best 4.0 assists per game in 27 minutes of action a contest as a freshman. Along with that trio, the Bucs can also play Swader and Tiggs at either the small forward or wing position, while Davis, Williams, Hubbard and Strong also give the team a great deal of depth on the perimeter.

 

With a transition oriented offense and stingy defensive style of play a year ago, the Bucs won 24 games and a conference title, so it is likely the team will take on a similar look again this year. In 2006-07, ETSU led the A-Sun in steals (9.9 spg), while also ranking second in assists per game, giving a clear indication of how important those two aspects of perimeter play are to the Bucs' success.

 

Frontcourt

 

With the departure of senior's Brad Nuckles and Eryk Thomas, the Bucs have lost their two most dependable inside defenders and shot blockers from a year ago. That leaves Reed, along with sophomore Blake Mishler (Metamora, Ill.) as the only true inside players returning from last year's roster. Reed showed all-conference skills several times last season, averaging 9.1 points per game and finishing fourth in the A-Sun with a field goal percentage of 56 percent. Meanwhile, Mishler saw significant floor time in several games and has given reason to believe he can take on a more important roll this year. Along with those two returning players, Swader will see time underneath the basket as well, as will newcomers Hamlin and Brown. All five of those players will ultimately battle for the minutes in the paint for the Bucs.

 

Schedule

 

Again, the Bucs face a daunting schedule this year, which includes home games against former Ohio Valley Conference rival Eastern Kentucky, and a trio of former Southern Conference foes in Appalachian State, Chattanooga and Marshall (which is now a member of Conference USA). Along with those games, the Bucs will also take on power conference foes Oklahoma State, Syracuse and Georgia.

 

In addition, the team will participate in the ESPN Bracketbuster Saturday, facing an opponent yet to be determined in the nationally televised annual event scheduled for late February. The Bucs' game with Georgia will be played in the first round of the Rainbow Classic, which will see the Bucs play three games in total during their stay in Honolulu, Hawaii. All those games and a 16 game conference slate will prepare the Bucs for another run at the NCAA Tournament in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championships March 5-8 in Nashville, Tenn.

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MBB UNC Greensboro 80 F
Dec 13 ETSU 79
WBB Eastern Kentucky University 49 Final
Dec 13 ETSU 64
WBB ETSU 86 Final
Dec 15 Morehead State University 77
MBB ETSU 63 F
Dec 16 Eastern Kentucky 60
WBB ETSU Wilmington, N.C.
Dec 19, 11:30 a.m. University of North Carolina Wilmington
WBB ETSU Wilmington, N.C.
Dec 20, 12:00 p.m. Jacksonville State University
MBB ETSU Richmond, Va.
Dec 22, 7:00 p.m. VCU
WBB Iona College Johnson City, Tenn.
Dec 29, 7:00 p.m. ETSU
MBB ETSU Knoxville, Tenn.
Dec 31, 1:00 p.m. Tennessee
WBB ETSU Chapel Hill, N.C.
Jan 2, 2:00 p.m. University of North Carolina
MBB VMI Freedom Hall
Jan 2, 7:00 p.m. ETSU
MBB ETSU Birmingham, Ala.
Jan 5, 8:00 p.m. Samford
MBB Mercer Freedom Hall
Jan 8, 7:00 p.m. ETSU
WBB ETSU Greenville, S.C.
Jan 10, 2:00 p.m. Furman University
MBB Chattanooga Freedom Hall
Jan 10, 4:00 p.m. ETSU
WBB ETSU Spartanburg, S.C.
Jan 12, 11:30 a.m. Wofford College