Thursday, November 09, 2006
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 9, 2006) - Coming off an impressive 31-point victory in its only exhibition game of the year, the ETSU men's basketball team will tip off its 2006-07 regular season Friday night against UVa.-Wise. Game time is set for inside
Both season and single game tickets are available for purchase by visiting ETSUBucs.com or calling 423-439-ETSU (3878). For more information on the 2006-07 ETSU squad and the upcoming season, see the preview below or visit ETSUBucs.com.
As the Bucs prepare for a new season in 2006-07, the team is set to undergo a significant facelift. Welcoming six newcomers to go along with nine returning players, the Bucs enter the upcoming hoops campaign with the challenge of replacing three players that were significant contributors to 72 wins and two trips to the NCAA Tournament over the last four seasons.
The most prominent of that group was 2005-2006 Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year and two-time Southern Conference Tournament MVP Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.), who wrapped up his career as the program's all-time leading scorer with 2,300 points. In addition to Smith, the team also said farewell to 1,000-point scorer Ben Rhoda (
While those three losses leave ETSU head coach Murry Bartow with some significant holes to fill in his roster, the Bucs will put their hopes in a quality group of returning players and a promising freshman class. Along with the eight returning players, the team will also add six true freshmen to its ranks, a group that is highlighted by four players who left high school as their program's all-time leading scorers. But offense has not been the real issue for the Bucs in recent years. Despite scoring an average of 81.6 ppg a year ago and ranking among the nation's Top 10 throughout the season in scoring offense, ETSU also relinquished 77.8 ppg, leaving the team with a focus to improve on the defensive end of the floor this season.
The Bucs will enter the new campaign with a 30-game schedule that includes a daunting seven-game road trip in late November and early December. Highlights on the schedule include trips to three Southeastern Conference foes, including in-state rival
With Smith and Rhoda stepping out of the picture, the biggest question mark this season for Bartow and his coaching staff may be finding a capable point guard and shoring up the Bucs' perimeter game. Returning from an extremely successful freshman campaign will be shooting guard Courtney Pigram (
With Pigram, Strong and Williams in place to battle for time, the point guard position may fall to either sophomore Tayloe Taylor (
Rounding out the perimeter on the wing will be a battle of newcomers. Redshirt junior Kenyona Swader (
Bolstered by the return of fifth-year senior Brad Nuckles (Council, Va.), as well as senior Eryk Thomas (Fremont, Calif.) and junior Andrew Reed (Port Richey, Fla.), the Bucs return three players who have seen significant floor time since coming to ETSU. A year ago, the 6-foot-9 Nuckles showed signs of dominance, particularly in A-Sun play where he nearly averaged a double-double for points and rebounds. He did average a team-high 7.8 boards a contest - including a 22 rebound effort on the road at
Along with the returning trio of Nuckles, Thomas and Reed, the Bucs have also added true freshmen Petras Balocka (Vilnius, Lithuania) and Blake Mishler (Metamora, Ill.) to their ranks. Balocka, a muscular 6-foot-7 player, has strong ball-handling and shooting skills, as well as the ability to score and rebound on the inside. Meanwhile, Mishler is the fourth of the Bucs' newcomers to end his prep career as his school's all-time leading scorer, using an unorthodox but effective left-handed shot to score on the inside. Both players are expected to battle for floor time. Wrapping up the frontcourt will be senior Nick Tuggle (
The Bucs will face a daunting challenge this year with a 30-game schedule that includes a seven-game road trip early on in the season. The Bucs will open at home against Virginia Wise on Nov. 4 and will also play host to
The team will also match up with SEC in-state foe
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