Rhoda, high-scoring guard, joins ETSU program

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- At the start of the college basketball recruiting season, East Tennessee State only had two scholarships to give.
   But throw in a couple of defections, and it once again has become another banner class.
   The last one to join head coach Ed DeChellis' squad for the upcoming year is Ben Rhoda. And the Centerville, Ohio native's credentials are pretty impressive.
   Rhoda averaged 28.4 points per-contest as a shooting guard last season. Rhoda's efforts made him a second-team All-Ohio selection.
   Rhoda has scored as many as 47 points in a game, and shot 60.4 percent from the field last season.
   Rhoda had originally committed to the Air Force Academy, but was not let in due to a medical condition. Rhoda had to find somewhere to play, and ETSU just happened to have a scholarship open.
   Keeton Brooks' defection during the early summer to go to cooking school provided an opportunity for Rhoda to come to Johnson City. And DeChellis was more than happy to take him.
   "He is a great addition to our program," DeChellis said Friday. "He's a 6-3 combination guard-forward. We were in the right place at the right time. He scores all around the basket and does all the intangibles to win."
   Rhoda joins Timothy Smith, Howard Bridgers and local product Brad Nuckles as this year's class. Smith was also the beneficiary of a defection, as he filled Cory Seels spot after he left.
   DeChellis feels like these players could be ready as soon as the season starts in November.
   "All of them have a chance to play and contribute," DeChellis said. "Timothy Smith has a chance to get some playing time with Sam Oatman at the point. Brad Nuckles should help in the post immediately. Rhoda has a chance to play in the perimeter, and Bridgers should help up front."
   Recruiting is one area that the Bucs have improved on in recent years, and it's showing in the results.
   The Bucs have won the Southern Conference's North Division the last two seasons. The Bucs also have the best conference record in that time span.
   Things are definitely a lot different from when DeChellis started at ETSU. The Bucs were just 7-20 his first year in Johnson City during the '96-97 season.
   "We try to bring in better players every year to make our team better," DeChellis said.