Bucs depend on Fields, Wadood for leadership

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   With the regular season winding down and tournaments on the horizon, East Tennessee State Buccaneer seniors Jerald Fields and Zakee Wadood are trying to make the best of things while they can.
   The two men frequently roll together to practice and games, and usually receive the loudest ovations from the home crowds.
   The All-Southern Conference players both went over the 1,000-point mark earlier this season, and both have struggled at times.
   Fields is trying to get out of his recent slump, while Wadood is wanting to get back in his scoring mode.
   The Bucs hold a 21-4 record to their credit, with a perfect 13-0 conference mark going into tonight's game at The Citadel.
   Coach Murry Bartow will tell you a lot of the team's success has come from Fields and Wadood, who have been leaders on and off the court.
   "They have had a good year and we've expected them to do so," Bartow said. "They are fun guys to be around and are good on the floor and in the classroom. They are great leaders for the team and it will be hard to replace them."
   Many of the players look up to the tandem and are learning for the program's future.
   "They've really been good to us," said ETSU sophomore Ben Rhoda. "Everybody's taking lessons from them and following their lead for the future. It will be different without them next year."
   Both were impressive athletes in other sports in high school, with Wadood being a strong quarterback who has been known to throw a football over 70 yards.
   NFL scouts have been noted to call about the duo, who had planned on playing football for ETSU next season before the program was cut.
   Fields (6-7, 260) was a bright spot at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Fla., before jumping aboard the Buccaneer ship.
   About 834 miles away in the town of Lonoke, Ark., outside of Little Rock, Wadood (6-5, 220) was putting up impressive marks himself and has done the same in Johnson City.
   "It's been a great season so far," said Fields, who ranks 15th on ETSU's all-time list with 1,222 points. "I haven't really been playing like I want to lately. We've had to distribute things around and things have been good."
   "Going (13-0) in the conference, you can't get no better than that," he said. "It's been a dream year so far. Hopefully, we'll keep it going."
   "It's went by faster this season," said Wadood, who ranks ninth on the Bucs' all-time list with 1,266 points for his career. "It seems like yesterday I just walked on campus and now I'm almost ready to walk off. I've enjoyed myself here. I've met some good people and had a lot of fun."
   "(This season) has been everything I expected," he continued. "We're undefeated in the conference and trying to keep up with our goals we set before the season. It's been a dream season for me."
   They will note that a lot of their success has came from the influence of having the other guy on the court with them.
   "It's crazy," Fields said of Wadood. "You catch yourself watching him a lot of times and that hurts me on the court in the game. He does some amazing things and you can't ask for a better teammate."
   "It's been fun at times and crazy at times," said Wadood. "Jerald's been a lot of fun for the team to be around and he's a high energy person that always brings everyone into things."
   With the exception of tonight's game, the remainder of the Bucs' regular season will be televised, which will give the two seniors a chance to shine on a national basis.
   ESPN's pay-per-view and regional affiliates will carry the Bucs against Fresno State on Saturday, while next Tuesday's game at home against Chattanooga will be carried by Fox Sports Net.
   The Bucs' season finale at the College of Charleston will be on ESPN 2.
   With a lot of attention on the team, Fields says the goals haven't changed. "We want to at least make it to the sweet 16," he said.
   "We're a target and everybody's shooing for us," added Wadood, who has 24 career double-doubles. "In every game, everybody's game us their best game. It's been a hard night, night in and out for us. We just have to stay focused and be prepared."