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Forbes' Bucs open practice to Good news

Jeff Birchfield • Sep 28, 2019 at 7:30 AM

JOHNSON CITY — The East Tennessee State men’s basketball team held its first official practice Thursday with the “Good news” that guard Patrick Good is on pace to play in the season opener Nov. 6 against Newberry.

Good underwent hip surgery March 27 after playing through the pain during his sophomore season. Originally, it was thought to be potentially a season-ending injury, but the former David Crockett star said he’s ahead of schedule and playing without pain.

“I’m progressing well, looking good out there and taking it one day at a time,” said Good, a redshirt junior who averaged 10.4 points per game last season. “I’m staying on my rehab with the strength and conditioning coach and the trainers. I should be ready the first game of the year. I’m ready to go.”

The Bucs are still holding out last season’s leading rebounder in Jeromy Rodriguez, who suffered a foot injury in the spring. Despite the setbacks, the Bucs were picked as Southern Conference favorites in one preseason poll.

Starting his fifth season as ETSU’s coach, Steve Forbes doesn’t shy away from the predictions coming off a 24-10 campaign and an overall record of 100-39 in four previous seasons.

“We have a lot of guys returning and there is no need to run from it,” Forbes said. “Our goal every year is to win the league. Being picked No. 1 doesn’t mean anything. It’s nice for the fans to read and something to use in practice. It doesn’t have any bearing on what we’re doing.”

MUSCLE-MAN HODGES

Forbes noted how junior guard Bo Hodges has bulked up since his freshman season. The coach believes Hodges, who was injured at this point a year ago, could be a serious contender for Southern Conference player of the year.

“He has expanded his game to the point where we’re playing him at the point, too,” Forbes said. “He can play the (positions) 1-4 and can guard the 1-4. I think he’s the most versatile player in the league.

“He’s shown a lot of growth from the time he’s gotten here, and he’s also gained 25 pounds of muscle since he’s gotten here.”

Hodges played in 29 games and averaged 10.4 points per contest last season. He believes the extra work in the weight room and paying more attention to his overall well-being is paying dividends.

“I feel like, body-wise, I’m healthy,” Hodges said. “I stay in the training room now just to get nicks and bruises (taken care of) and to get up to 100 percent. I feel like I’m at it now.”

EXCITING AND NEW

One key addition is Joe Hughley, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward who transferred from Central Connecticut State. Hughley averaged 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds last season for CCSU. He felt the Bucs playing a trio of August exhibition games in Europe helped him bond quickly with the team.

“It was a lot of fun to play with my teammates and get the chemistry going,” Hughley said. “We were able to see our strengths and weaknesses to see what we needed to work on. Europe gave us the chance to hang out and get to know each other. That’s really important to winning.

“On the court matters, but if you really care about each other off the court, you’re willing to sacrifice, dive on the floor, help that teammate up where you care about him more than just the game of basketball.”

SCHEDULE HIGHLIGHTS

ETSU opens the season with an exhibition game against Limestone on Nov. 1 before hosting Newberry in the official season opener five days later.

The Bucs go to Kansas on Nov. 17, a place with which Forbes is familiar from his time as an assistant at Texas A&M.

“I think it’s the hardest place to play in the country,” Forbes said. “It’s so loud. I remember when I was at Texas A&M, they went on a run late in the game. (Then-Aggies coach) Billy Gillespie was sitting right next to me and I couldn’t hear him. The fans there are really engaged.

“It’s great for our program, great for our players.”

The Bucs renew their rivalry with Appalachian State on Nov. 26 at Freedom Hall. It’s a game personal to Good, who transferred from the Mountaineers program after his freshman season.

The nonconference slate also includes a visit to LSU in December. The full schedule will likely be released to the public next week.

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