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MRI results on Bucs' Nuckles encouraging

KELLY HODGE • Feb 26, 2007 at 11:21 AM

JOHNSON CITY - Brad Nuckles plans to be in the East Tennessee State lineup when it opens Atlantic Sun Conference tournament play later this week at Memorial Center.

The senior forward underwent an MRI on his left shoulder Monday, and it reportedly showed no structural damage. Nuckles was injured while going up for a rebound early in Saturday's regular-season finale against Mercer.

He sounded relieved after watching Monday's practice in street clothes.

"It's more like certain movements give me certain pain," Nuckles said. "I'm just glad nothing's torn or anything like that. I've played in pain before, and I can do it again."

The top-seeded Bucs (22-8) will face Stetson in the A-Sun quarterfinals Thursday at 7 p.m.

Coach Murry Bartow called the MRI results "encouraging" and said Nuckles will return to practice today.

"I think he's worried about how effective he can be when he's playing, when he jerks his arm up for a rebound," Bartow said. "Hopefully we can reassure him in practice the next couple of days. We obviously need Brad out there on the floor."

Nuckles is the team's second-leading scorer and its leading rebounder this season. He also leads the conference in blocked shots.

The Hatters won't be particularly glad to see the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Nuckles back on the court. He collected 19 points and 11 rebounds in their previous meeting, an 84-49 ETSU rout.

Nuckles isn't the Bucs' only frontcourt player trying to get well this week. Andrew Reed, their explosive junior forward, also sat out Monday's practice with tendinitis in his knee.

"We need to get him healthy because he's got to have his legs," Bartow said.

The coach said his team is otherwise ready to begin its three-day mission that will hopefully lead it back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004. The Bucs have won 14 of their past 15 games and are 13-1 on their home floor this season.

"We're in a good mind-set," Bartow said. "We're trying not to look at this as a tournament. We're in our normal routine, just doing what we've been doing.

"Based on our record, we think we're the best team in the league, but in a three-day tournament the best team doesn't always win. We're just taking this one game at a time."

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