@GTMBK Non-Conference Preview – ETSU

Sept. 15, 2015

THE FLATS – Each week up until the beginning of basketball season, Ramblinwreck.com takes a look at an opponent on Georgia Tech’s non-conference schedule. This week, we look at East Tennessee State, an opponent the Jackets have played just twice in the last 25 years.

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Date: November 22, 2015
Location: Johnson City, Tenn.
Conference: Southern Conference
Home arena: Freedom Hall Civic Center (5,619)
2014-15 Record: 16-14 overall, 8-10 in the SEC (5th place), 192nd in NCAA RPI
Post-Season: SoCon Tournament Quarterfinals, lost to Western Carolina 67-61
NCAA Championship Appearances: 9 (last in 2010)
All-time series record: Georgia Tech leads 4-1 (First meeting 1/13/1976)
Head coach: Steve Forbes (entering 1st season, 0-0)
Starters returning/lost: 3/2
Top scorer returning: Lester Wilson (12.6)
Top rebounder returning: A.J. Merriweather (6.1)

Quick preview for 2015-16

Steve Forbes is entering his first season as the 16th head coach for ETSU basketball. Forbes came over from Wichita State, where he served as an assistant coach and helped take the Shockers to the Sweet Sixteen last season. Under former head coach Murry Bartow, the Buccaneers went 16-14 and finished fifth in the Southern Conference last year. Bartow was fired after 12 seasons with the Bucs. To bounce back in 2015-16, the Buccaneers will look to senior forward Lester Wilson. Wilson was third in scoring as a junior behind graduated seniors Jalen Riley and Rashawn Rembert. The Bucs will also depend on the rebounding and scoring of A.J. Merriweather. The 6-2 junior guard led ETSU in rebounding last season and is the second highest in scoring among returners behind Wilson. With only one freshman and one sophomore on the roster, the Bucs have a team full of veterans who will need to rely on their experience in order to improve this season.

Quick recap of 2014-15

Last year ETSU started off the season strong, winning five of its first six games. At the end of January, the Bucs were 12-6 after beating North Carolina Central at home. However, the team won just three of its last nine games. The Bucs lost four in a row to conclude the season, including an overtime loss to Western Carolina in the SoCon Tournament. The 2014-15 Buccaneers ranked in the bottom half of the conference in scoring defense, defensive rebounding, and field goal percentage. Of the bright spots in 2014-15, ETSU ranked in the top three of the SoCon in scoring, three point shooting, and offensive rebounding. Ultimately, the Bucs must improve their defense to surpass 16 wins in 2015-16.

Greatest program accomplishment

2010 SoCon Championship and nine NCAA Tournament Appearances – ETSU basketball began in 1918, rejoined the SoCon in 2014, and has appeared in the NCAA Tournament nine times. The Bucs made it to the Big Dance four consecutive seasons from 1989-92. ETSU didn’t make it back until 2003, and made back-to-back appearances in 2009-10. The Bucs have only won two games in the tournament, one in 1968 and one in 1992 over Arizona to make it to the round of 32. In the 1990 NCAA Tournament, they matched up against Tech and lost 99-83 as a number 13 seed. The ETSU basketball program has won nine conference and regular season titles in its history, including a repeat as the Atlantic Sun Tournament champions in 2010. That year, the Bucs entered the NCAA Tournament as a number 16 seed, and lost to Kentucky by 29.

Greatest player in program history

Keith Jennings (1987-1991) – Keith Jennings, a Culpeper, Va., native, is arguably the best basketball player in the history of the ETSU program. Jennings is the school’s all-time leader in assists (983) and steals (334). He ranks fourth on the all-time scoring list (1,988). He averaged nearly 16 points and eight assists per game after four seasons. Jennings helped lead the Bucs to 89 wins and three NCAA Tournament appearances over the course of his career. The 5-7 point guard won the 1991 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, given to the most outstanding collegiate senior six feet tall and under. Jennings started his NBA career as a free agent, and played three seasons with the Golden State Warriors. He averaged 6.6 points and nearly four assists in his NBA career. Currently, Jennings is an assistant basketball coach at Bluefield College in Virginia.

Place to visit on campus or in the city

Gray Fossil Site, Johnson City – Affiliated with East Tennessee State University, the Gray Fossil Site was discovered by geologists in May of 2000. The fossil site is the world’s largest tapir fossil find and is home to many new and rare discoveries. These include the most complete rhinoceros skeleton found in North America, a new species of red panda, and a new species of an ancient badger. Additional fossils in the exhibit include a sabor-toothed cat, a short-faced bear, an alligator, and an elephant.

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