After he suffered injury to his hand during a basketball game against North Carolina Central, junior guard A.J. Merriweather will be out for the remainder of the season.
“We’re gonna miss his leadership,”said ETSU men’s basketball coach Steve Forbes. “He’s a great teammate,”
Coming into the season, Merriweather was a Preseason SoCon All-American and performed like one.
Merriweather was averaging 8.8 points per game and 4.1 rebounds in his junior year.
“I think the team has done good job of adjusting,” Merriweather said. “They are still doing a good job rebounding. It’s just the on-court vocal leadership and loose ball hustle from me is what they need, because not all players are used to doing that.”
Now in conference play, the Bucs are hoping to find someone who can help reproduce what Merriweather did on both offense and defense.
“We’re also going to miss his ability to play hard, defend and rebound,” Forbes said. “Those are hard to replace, so it’s going to be a big challenge to replace him.”
Under Forbes’ leadership, the Bucs have demonstrated their skill at making 3-point shots. They are ranked No. 50 in the country and second in the SoCon. Their 3-point shooting has helped them in conference play against teams that use a zone defense.
Despite being second in the conference in scoring, Forbes believes the Bucs still have much to improve.
“I think we have to get better defensively and most importantly rebound the ball,” Forbes said. “That’s what I think hurt us in the non-conference games, but we’ve gotten better at it.”
The Bucs are currently ranked fourth in rebounding in the conference, something they must get better at to make a run in the conference.
“To win the championship we have to continue to rely on rebounding and defense,” Forbes said.
With a key player like Merriweather out for the remainder of the season, the Bucs are looking for someone to take his place.
Forbes says Desonta Bradford and Deuce Bello are stepping up and playing more minutes now that Merriweather is gone. Being a junior this year, Merriweather will look to improve in a lot of areas during his rehabilitation process.
“I of course always want to improve shooting,” Merriweather said, “but I’m taking this time to learn the game, really slow the game down and learn coach’s system since it’s pretty much my all around game,”
Despite being out for the season, Merriweather is still making an impact on his team.
“For me, this being my third year of college basketball, I make sure I help relate to my players and tell them stuff from the knowledge I know,” Merriweather said. “Since I am a player as well, they may react different than when a coach tells them something so I just have to continue to be a leader. The Bucs are on the right track in conference play, they are tied for second with the leader only having a one win advantage in the standings.”