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Forbes: Let seniors come back for another shot at NCAA glory

Joe Avento • Mar 13, 2020 at 5:30 AM

JOHNSON CITY — Maybe a tweet is no way to end a career. At least that’s the way Steve Forbes sees it.

Now that the NCAA Tournament has been canceled, Forbes is thinking outside the box.

The East Tennessee State basketball coach had to tell his players on Thursday that the NCAA Tournament bid they earned was no longer valid. The tournament, along with all other NCAA winter and spring championships, has been canceled because of the ongoing fear of the spread of novel coronavirus.

It got Forbes to thinking about his five seniors and how they led the team to the Southern Conference tournament championship Monday night. He came to the conclusion that their careers shouldn’t end with a tweet from the NCAA.

“I know this is out of the box and it might not be popular, but I’ve already gone on the record to say this,” Forbes said. “I believe that every senior should have the right to come back. These young men dedicated their lives to have the opportunity to represent ETSU in the NCAA Tournament, and it’s been taken away from them at no fault of their own. While I wholeheartedly support this decision, I would like to be part of the conversation in conjunction with the Southern Conference and the NCAA in giving our five seniors another year of eligibility so they have the opportunity to once again turn their dreams into reality by having the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament next year.”

The team was scheduled to practice Thursday for the first time since winning the SoCon title. Instead, Forbes held a team meeting. They met with team doctor Ralph Mills to discuss the coronavirus and what to do if they began to feel bad.

Less than an hour after the meeting ended, the NCAA’s cancellation tweet had been released and the Bucs’ dreams were dashed.

“Pretty disappointing,” said ETSU senior guard Isaiah Tisdale, the Most Outstanding Player at the SoCon tournament. “But it’s bigger than basketball when it comes to the virus because people are actually dying.

“It’ll hurt, but it’s for the good. Doctors know what they’re doing. People have died from it and that’s more important than risking everybody.”

Tisdale and teammate Bo Hodges were the only two ETSU players made available to the media on Thursday.

“It’s disappointing, mostly for the seniors,” Hodges said. “ It’s disappointing for me too. We might not make it again.”

As conference after conference announced the cancellation of tournaments on Thursday — the Big East pulled St. John’s and Creighton off the floor at halftime — Forbes said he was at least consoled by the fact that his team got a chance to celebrate a magical run that ended up with a conference championship and his players basking in confetti on the court at Harrah’s Cherokee Center.

“No matter what happens, nobody can ever take away the experience that we had the last two home games against Furman and Western Carolina and then the three games in Asheville,” Forbes said. “They’ll have that memory for the rest of their lives, as do our fans.”

On Thursday afternoon, Forbes received an email from the National Association of Basketball Coaches saying that in-person recruiting had been suspended until further notice. It capped an already depressing day.

“I’m heartbroken for everyone associated with our program, especially our five seniors,” he said. “I want to personally thank my team and our fans for the magical season that has now come to an end.”

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