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Forbes' program a pipeline to the pros

Joe Avento • Oct 16, 2018 at 7:28 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Steve Forbes has been coaching men’s basketball at East Tennessee State for three years, and nine of his former ETSU players are playing professionally overseas.

During those three seasons, the Bucs have won 76 games, so it’s no wonder that many of the players were good enough to become pros. It makes their former coach proud to see them move on and continue their careers.

“First and foremost, they’re all graduates and that’s the most important thing,” Forbes said Tuesday. “They didn’t let basketball use them. They used basketball to get a great education at East Tennessee State. Then they get the honor of making money doing something they love. Not everybody gets to do that.

“And they get another education by seeing a part of the world they’ve never seen before. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for all of them.”

Desonta Bradford, the Southern Conference player of the year last season, is playing in Hungary. Other former ETSU players under Forbes with overseas teams are T.J. Cromer (Bosnia), Devontavius Payne (England), Jalan McCloud (England), Isaac Banks (Georgia), Hanner Mosquera-Perea (Poland), Ge’Lawn Guyn (Germany) and Deuce Bello (Denmark). Tevin Glass played in Canada and Argentina last year.

In addition, A.J.Merriweather is about to begin his second year with the Harlem Globetrotters.

Sending that many players to the pros can be a recruiting tool. Kids who look into playing at ETSU know if they develop their skills, they’ll get enough looks to get a chance to play for pay somewhere.

“It sends a message to people we’re recruiting, ‘You’re going to come play on a team that has similar goals — to graduate, win championships and play professionally,’ ” Forbes said. “Every player on that team will have that opportunity if they choose, through hard work. It helps kids understand there’s a culture here. People are serious about their game, serious about academics.”

Forbes has coached 18 NBA players and between 80 and 90 overseas pros, so he knows what it takes to be successful. He also knows it’s not all glamour and glitz. Life in a foreign country can be difficult and only the tough players make it work.

“To go over there and play, you have to love the game,” Forbes said. “You tend to be isolated, tend to be in a country where they don’t speak your language. There are high expectations for the American players to produce. If they don’t, they don’t get paid and get sent home.”

Next August, the Bucs will take a trip to Europe to play games in the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and Serbia. A game is scheduled in Belgrade, the hometown of ETSU sophomore center Mladen Armus.

Forbes’ current roster has only one senior, so it’s safe to assume most of this year’s team will take part in the European tour.

“On top of being a tremendous educational experience, it will give our current players the opportunity to get a firsthand look at a different way of life they someday want to be a part of,” Forbes said.

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