Bucs loaded with promise on hardwood

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF

    The East Tennessee State Buccaneer men's basketball team is like a 16-year-old driver. They'll most likely get better with age.
   The Bucs are currently sitting at 4-3 heading into tomorrow's game with James Madison. And that's probably where they should be.
   ETSU did win the Southern Conference regular season title last year, but lost three integral members of that team to graduation. ETSU lost about 28 points per-game combined when Renaldo Johnson, Adrian Meeks and D.J. McDuffie left Johnson City.
   Enter a talented, but very young squad. There are two seniors, one junior, and two sophomores in the starting lineup. And when you throw in the fact that two freshmen are receiving considerable amounts of playing time, it's easy to see that the expectations might be a little lower.
   The veterans will be the key to a successful season. Dimeco Childress played his best of game of the season against Radford last Saturday, but he has struggled this year.
   Also struggling have been fellow guards Ryan Lawson and Cliff Decoster. In the Radford game, they combined to shoot 3-of-16 from the field.
   This means that the Bucs have been highly dependent on young players so far. And to be honest, they've done an admirable job.
   Sophomore post Jerald Fields has had several double-digit scoring games, and has been a force inside. He knows how to play defense, as he came up with five steals in the Radford game.
   Fellow sophomore post player Zakee Wadood had big games against Radford and UNC-Asheville, and has entered the starting lineup now that Cory Seels is out with a shoulder injury. And he may stay there if he keeps playing the way he has been.
   The two freshmen seeing time are point guard Michael Toliver and shooting guard Tiras Wade. Tolliver is just starting to see his time increase, while Wade is hot at times, but very cold in other stretches.
   The young players have played well at times, but like all young teams they go through lulls.
   At times, this team looks like it could beat anybody. At other times, the Bucs look a little ragged.
   It's going to be up to the veterans. They're showing signs of breaking out of their slumps, but will have to do so if the Bucs are going to be successful.
   You can't depend on freshmen and sophomores to lead you. It's up to the veterans to step up.
   Because if they can't, don't expect a repeat of last year's Southern Conference championship.
   PAUL JOHNSON ACCEPTS NAVY POST
   Georgia Southern head football coach Paul Johnson has accepted the same position at Navy.
   Johnson returns to the school where he once served as offensive coordinator before coming to Georgia Southern.
   Johnson will continue to coach the Eagles through the remainder of the season. Georgia Southern will host Southern Conference rival Furman tomorrow at 12 p.m.
   The goal of almost every football coach is to be the skipper of a Division 1-A program. But to be honest, this Georgia Southern team can probably beat Navy.
   Sometimes life isn't greener on the other side. Mike Cavan is a perfect example of that.
   Cavan guided East Tennessee State to the Division 1-AA playoffs in 1996. He left the program to take over the helm at SMU.
   Five years later, Cavan is unemployed. SMU didn't have a winning record after his first season.
   I hope the same thing doesn't happen to Johnson. He's had a lot of success at 1-AA level, but that doesn't exactly mean success in 1-A football.
   This also might be bad timing. The Eagles are striving for their third straight national championship.
   It will be interesting to see how they react to the news. But I think they will probably be OK.
   Johnson can definitely go out with a bang. The Eagles have already defeated Furman this year, so they have to be considered the favorite to make it back to Chattanooga.
   Hopefully for Johnson, it won't be his last taste of success.