For the ETSU men’s basketball team, 2016 was an incredible season, a thrilling campaign that saw the Buccaneers win their first SoCon Conference Championship since 2010 and an NCAA Tournament bid.
After giving their all against the University of Florida, the Bucs exited in the first round of the tournament.
With departures from star seniors TJ Cromer, Hanner Mosquera-Perea and AJ Merriweather, the biggest question facing the Buccaneers this year will be if they can replicate the success of last season.
After boasting an impressive 27-8 overall record last season, the Bucs will need new leaders to emerge if they want to achieve the greatness of the 2016 Bucs team.
The Bucs’ first game of the 2017-2018 season came on the road at Northern Kentucky University, but the season didn’t start out the way the Buccaneers had hoped. The Bucs fell in their first game of the season 81-63.
The Bucs shot 36.7 percent from the field and were only 2-11 from three-point range. The Bucs also turned the ball over 20 times.
Desonta Bradford (Humboldt, Tennessee) led in scoring with 15 points on 6 out of 14 shooting and Mladen Armus (Belgrade, Serbia) led in assists with 10.
The Bucs had a chance to redeem themselves from the first season loss and take on Savannah State on the road. The outcome of this one was much more pleasing to the Bucs.
Senior guard Devontavius Payne (Carbondale, Illinois) scored a career-high 28 points in the Bucs 76-61 win over the Tigers of Savannah State. Bradford had a double-double by scoring 10 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
The Bucs were searching for new leadership. It may be early, but it may seem as though they may have found it. Seniors Bradford and Payne have shined in the first two match-ups of the season.
As the season progresses, we will find out more about this new Buc squad and whether or not early leaders Bradford and Payne can help build another successful season.
Can this Bucs team repeat the successes of last season? Only time will tell, but it should be fascinating to watch.
They get a huge test Friday night when they travel to take on the No.7-ranked Kentucky Wildcats.