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Bucs might be back on campus June 1

Joe Avento • May 21, 2020 at 1:00 AM

JOHNSON CITY — New East Tennessee State basketball coach Jason Shay might get a chance to see his players soon if the news coming out of the NCAA is true.

The NCAA Council reportedly voted Wednesday to allow athletes in three sports — men’s and women’s basketball and football — to begin returning to campuses June 1 for voluntary workouts. Schools across the country have been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Where we’re at with East Tennessee State, that’s up to President (Brian) Noland in allowing our students to come back to campus. As of right now, we’re closed,” Shay said Wednesday during an event called ETSU Virtual Game Time Tour. “So just working with him and the rest of our administration on when that is going to be a possibility to have out athletes return is still up in the air and we will work through that as we can.”

The key word is “voluntary,” but basketball players routinely spend the summer on campus building chemistry and bonding.

“That’s not necessarily that we can have our hands on them, but they can be on campus doing pickup games, so to speak, and possibly doing some captain’s runs or whatever that may be,” Shay said. “Students and athletes returning to campus is going to be determined by four layers — the governor of the state, then the NCAA, then by the Southern Conference and then President Noland.”

The Southern Conference doesn’t plan on announcing a decision on whether schools will be allowed to bring students back in June until the NCAA makes it official.

Also, the NCAA’s one-time free transfer waiver reportedly did not pass on Wednesday. It might be voted on in January.

“Obviously we have benefited from the transfer market,” Shay said. “I think the players should have a right to chose. It’s the climate that we’re in.”


With two of the star players from this year’s 30-4 ETSU team — Bo Hodges and Daivien Williamson — entering the NCAA’s transfer portal, Shay said he’s trying to walk the tightrope of filling roster spots while still hoping to welcome both players back.

“You’re always recruiting,” he said. “Recruiting is like shaving. If you don’t do it every day, it shows. We’ve been in contact with some recruits just in case, but my first obligation — and I owe it to Daivien and Bo — is to allow them to come back. They’ve been a big part of what we’ve done, an integral part. We’re recruiting like we have two spots open. We’ll welcome those two back with open arms. That’s kind of where we’re at.”

Shay said he’s visited 10 of his 13 players in person while trying to keep in contact with all of them as much as possible.

“Talks with all 13 guys have been going well,” he said. “We’ll see as this plays out. I’m in conversations with all 13 guys and parents included. It’s been good so far, positive.”


Shay said he’s talking to a few strength coaches to join his staff.

He’s already hired Turner Battle as an assistant and Chad Donley as director of basketball operations. An offer is out to a second assistant and Shay is waiting on his decision.

“Hopefully we’ll know something soon,” Shay said.

As far as the third assistant spot, Shay says he’s taking his time.

“I’m probably going to be patient,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people. I have a long list of people interested in coming to my staff at ETSU. I want to find the right fit, a person that’s going to add to the cohesiveness of the staff.”


Before Steve Forbes left for Wake Forest, he teased about the schedule, giving a few hints. Shay said it’s getting near completion.

“The schedule’s moving right along,” he said. “We’re close. We don’t have very many games left. It’s still a work in progress. I haven’t worked as much on the schedule because I’m trying to recruit players.

“We have had some conversations with some teams. Getting those last few is going to take a little time.”

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