Bartow reaching out to area coaching staffs

By Wes Holtsclaw
Tuesday was a special evening for several of the area's high school and collegiate basketball coaches.
East Tennessee State coach Murry Bartow and assistants Scott Wagers and Mike Boyd held an informal dinner session at the Franklin Health and Fitness Center Pine Room to meet new faces and talk about basketball.
The area coaches, including staffs from Johnson County, Volunteer, Happy Valley, Milligan College and Elizabethton, who helped sponsor the event, fielded questions ranging from offensive and defensive fundamentals to scheduling.
It was something in the works for a while according to Elizabethton coach Tony Hardin, who helped organize the event with Sycamore Shoals' Regina May.
"When Coach Bartow first came to ETSU, he called and we talked and he wanted to get to know the local coaches," Hardin said. "He's a real good guy, and he wants to be personable and know people and the area."
According to Bartow, the basketball staff has had a busy schedule between workouts and recruiting, not counting the numerous other events they attend in the area to promote the ETSU men's program.
"Obviously we are recruiting and we have our 12 guys in a program with individual workouts, strength and conditioning and making sure academics are in order," he said.
"We're also trying to go out and meet a lot of people and get them interested in the program, maybe come to some games and help our season ticket sales."
Taking over a successful squad from Ed DeChellis, who went to Penn State after leading the Bucs to the NCAA Tourney, Bartow and his staff will use similar things with a team returning a bulk of its offense.
Gerald Fields and Zakee Wadood will head the inside attack for the Bucs, while sophomore guard Tim Smith will look to build from a solid 2003 post-season.
"I think we'll do a lot of stuff similar to last year," Bartow said. "What you do is look at the team, adjust their strengths and try to find a starting level like they did last year.
"Gerald and Zakee will be strong inside and Timmy had a great end of the year," he said. "When practice starts, it's wide open. We'll see who our starters are based on productivity."
ETSU had a successful recruiting year, bringing in quality freshmen in Aaron Scott, A.J. Jackson and Travis Strong, who were solid offensively in their high school tenures.
"Time will tell," the coach said. "We've got a real good freshman class. We like all three and they are all good players and athletic. We haven't seen them together, but we like them all."
One thing that sticks out with East Tennessee's upcoming schedule is a much broader range of opponents, from Houston, Texas Tech, UNC-Wilmington and Clemson to being participants in the Hawaii Rainbow Classic and a road contest in the ESPN Bracket Busters series.
"We've got a good schedule with tough road games at Houston, Texas Tech and Clemson," he said. "We've got UNC-Wilmington in early and last year they beat us by 20 points."
The informative session was enjoyed by everyone in attendance, including Happy Valley head coach Charlie Bayless, who celebrated his 80th birthday on Wednesday.
"I think it's a great thing to build a good relationship between the high school and college coaches," Bayless said. "It's a good thing to be able to go to games and watch their practices. Coach Bartow is a fine young coach."
--Special thanks to Sycamore Shoals Catering, who provided a Pork Chop dinner for those in attendance.