The international players on the ETSU men’s basketball team are feeling right at home in Johnson City.
The four players are sophomore Mladen Armus (Belgrade, Serbia), junior D’Andre Bernard (Toronto, Canada), junior Lucas N’Guessan (De Lier, Netherlands), and junior Jeromy Rodriguez (Santiago, Dominican Republic).
Each came to ETSU for the opportunity to improve their game, extend their education and have the chance to possibly play in the NCAA tournament.
Coach Steve Forbes has done a good job of adding players he believes can help the team win. In terms of recruiting, he described his process of knowing who he wants by watching them play in the United States.
He knows he can’t easily go watch players from out of the country play, so he has to rely on video and word of mouth. When asked about how he gets players to come to play in Johnson City he simply said “opportunity.”
“The opportunity to play in a great program, opportunity to get a great education, and the opportunity to play in front of a tremendous fan base,” said Forbes. “I personally have a lot of experience being successful with players from foreign countries, so a lot of those things kind of go together and accentuate your positives.”
The players have really felt at home playing in Johnson City, which reflects on how well Forbes and his staff have done to get players to build chemistry.
“I recruit on a personal relationship, so when it comes down to it, our trust and the fact this is a great place to go to school is something they can’t turn down,” said Forbes.
Rodriguez, who joined the Bucs last season, said he felt at home when he got to campus, and playing against the older guys made him feel even better.
“The first time I played with them, I felt I had been playing with them,” said Rodriguez.
For Bernard, he enjoyed the family environment when he joined the Bucs this season. The moment that really stuck out to him was the dinner the team had on his visit to ETSU. Hearing that Forbes emphasizes family made him feel like he had found the right fit.
“Right from the jump when we all got together this summer, everyone got along with each other, and it kind of felt like we all knew each other from two years ago,” said Bernard.
When Armus came to the Bucs, one of the main things he worked on is learning the English language, which he credits coach Forbes for having patience with him.
“I learned about their traditions, culture and country,” said Armus. “They made my living here much easier than I was thinking, especially my freshman year they were willing to explain to me and accept me in the right way.”
The big addition to the Bucs was seven-foot N’Guessan who transferred from Oklahoma State and was able to play at the mid-season point for the Bucs. He appreciated most that the Bucs’ staff work so hard to get the most out of their players.