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Forbes still giddy about Rodriguez, excited about future

Joe Avento • May 8, 2019 at 8:32 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Steve Forbes was still smiling on Wednesday, a day after he learned he’ll have the services of his best big man.

The reason for the East Tennessee State basketball coach’s glee was the news that Jeromy Rodriguez would be back in a Bucs uniform next season. The junior forward, who was eighth in the country in rebounding last season, had announced his decision to turn professional a couple of weeks ago.

This week, however, Rodriguez did an about-face and told Forbes he wanted to finish his career at ETSU next season.

“It was all him,” Forbes said. “That was the really good thing about it. It wasn’t a situation where I was hounding him.”

Even after Rodriguez announced his decision to turn professional, he continued to work out with his former teammates. They apparently continued to recruit the 6-foot-7 power forward, who is reportedly up to 245 pounds.

“I knew that bond was still there,” Forbes said.

Rodriguez could have transferred anywhere and been immediately eligible because he has graduated, but when he decided to come back to college, he chose to stay at ETSU.

“He really likes it here,” Forbes said. “Think about the schools who would recruit him if he was a grad transfer. Bringing him back takes us to another level.”

Forbes met with the media for a long-ranging news conference Wednesday at Ball Court, the team’s practice facility. He announced a home-and-home series with Appalachian State and new Mountaineers coach Dustin Kerns. He also discussed his three new recruits, how he plans to fill the last two scholarships and how the team’s summer European trip will change now that Serbian center Mladen Armus has transferred to Boise State.

NEW RECRUITS

Forbes has signed three players as part of the latest recruiting class — junior college wing Vonnie Patterson, high school shooting guard Damari Monsanto and graduate transfer forward Joe Hugley, who comes from Central Connecticut State.

Forbes called Patterson a winner and said the high scoring Monsanto has loads of potential. He really beamed while talking about Hugley.

“Fabulous person,” Forbes said. “One of the most genuine, nicest kids I’ve ever met. We got lucky.”

Hugley visited ETSU while Forbes was in Iowa for his father’s funeral and signed before he left Johnson City.

TWO SCHOLARSHIPS LEFT

Forbes said he hopes to sign one more player who can play next year and another who will have to sit out. He is having a big man visit this weekend.

EURO CHANGES

When Armus announced his decision to leave ETSU, speculation began immediately about the team’s summer tour. One of the stops was to be in Belgrade, Serbia, Armus’ hometown. That part has been removed from the itinerary, which now includes stops in Prague, Munich, Vienna and Budapest.

CAPS AND GOWNS

Forbes has had 16 seniors since he’s been at ETSU and all 16 have left with college degrees.

”It makes me feel good for them,” he said. “When they’re done doing what they love doing, they’re going to have a degree to fall back on. I keep a flat basketball in my office because the ball will stop bouncing someday.

“It’s easy for me to recruit here because my own children go to school here. I have a son who’s getting a Master’s and my daughter just got hers and is working on her PhD. It’s a pretty easy sell for me when they say what do I think of the school? My own children go here and they’re doing well.”

HUNGRY BUCS

For the first time under Forbes, the Bucs didn’t make the Southern Conference tournament’s championship game. Forbes hopes that stokes a fire in his team.

“Each year I think the team that won it was the hungriest,” he said. “For the first time, we didn’t get to the finals. We have to have an edge.”

PATRICK GOOD

The Bucs’ shooting guard had a nice first season at ETSU, but he was hampered all year by a preseason hip injury that required surgery. Good won’t be able to take part in the summer tour but will hopefully be ready in time for next season.

“He’s off his crutches,” Forbes said. “I know he’s been very diligent in his rehab. It will be in the fall before he can come back. He made 88 threes on one leg. He was hurt, man. You saw it at the end of the year. He tried. He just couldn’t do it. One thing about Pat is he’s going to be diligent about his work. I have all the confidence in the world that he’s going to be healthy.”

SCHEDULE

Forbes said he would not get into details about next season’s schedule, but he did announce the home-and-home series with Appalachian State.

In addition to Forbes’ announcement, Internet reports on Tuesday linked the Bucs with a game at LSU and a matchup with Kansas is expected to be announced soon.

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