JOHNSON CITY — East Tennessee State men’s basketball coach Jason Shay has yet to name a starting five for a season opener just days away.
Now, there is more to factor into the decision. The Bucs learned Wednesday that the NCAA had granted a waiver for Kansas State transfer David Sloan to play this season.
Shay expects the 6-foot-2 senior guard to make an immediate impact along with 6-4 junior guard Serrel Smith, a Maryland transfer.
“(Sloan) wants to play so it gives us some experience at the point guard position,” Shay said during Thursday’s videoconference. “It changes our lineup pretty drastically with each time a waiver is approved. We have all 12 scholarship players available to play.”
Shay added he’s worried more about who finishes games than who starts. He likes the competition in practice and feels confident going into his team’s game against Abilene Christian on Nov. 25 in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Fort Myers, Florida.
“We’ve been improving and that’s all you can ask,” he said. “We have to continue to improve and be more gritty and stingy on defense. Offensively, we’ve been coming along and I’m happy how we’ve been efficient. Can we maintain that, give that winning effort on both ends of the floor and not beat ourselves?”
Shay is facing several challenges with a revamped lineup that looks nothing like last season’s 30-4 Southern Conference championship team. Because of the coronavirus protocols and precautions, the Bucs haven’t had the benefit of preseason scrimmages or exhibition games.
“It’s a little scary as a new head coach with a new team,” Shay said. “Today was our 61st practice since July. We’re tired of playing against each other. Now we’re going to see different philosophies and how other teams play. There are a lot of uncertainties.”
Shay and staff have already begun the process of putting in plays to run against Abilene Christian. The Wildcats return four starters — including 6-8 forward Joe Pleasant and 7-foot center Kolton Kohl, who combined to average over 20 points per game — from last season’s 20-11 team that won the Southland Conference tournament.
“They’re going to throw the ball in the post,” Shay said. “They play a lot like Kansas, the high-low, throw it in the post heavy. They’ve got an all-conference power forward in Joe Pleasant. We’re going to have to be solid down there defending. It’s not just about them scoring. It’s about us staying out of foul trouble.”
The Wildcats were among the nation’s leaders in steals last season and while Shay expects them to make it hard to get in the offensive sets, he likes how the Bucs are moving the basketball in practice and their improved shot selection.
Allen Strothers, a 6-2 point guard from Newport News, Virginia, signed his national letter of intent to join the Bucs next fall, the university announced on Thursday.
The son of former Portland Trail Blazers guard Lamont Strothers, Allen Strothers has career averages of 14 points, seven rebounds, six assists and six steals per game.
“Allen Strothers comes from a great gene pool. His dad played a long time professionally and he’s his coach,” Shay said. “That lineage will help him as a player and he should be able to contribute early in his career. He has good height and a good basketball IQ.
“He can break down his own defender and find the open man. He can make shots and he’s capable of taking over games. Because he’s athletic with long arms, he can really add to our prowess on defense.”