The Bucs open the season Friday at 7 p.m. at Cincinnati and then head to Michigan State for a 1 p.m. game on Sunday. ETSU defeated Cincinnati 87-77 in last season’s opener in Johnson City and later pushed Michigan State to overtime.
With both those games on the road and then another at Radford the following Thursday, it will be the third week of the season before the Bucs play their first home game against Troy at Brooks Gym.
After the Bucs finished 21-13 with a Women's NIT appearance, ETSU was picked as the co-favorites with Mercer in the Southern Conference coaches poll. Part of the reason is more depth with 15 players on the varsity roster, compared to just 10 last season.
Following the graduation of leading scorer Tianna Tarter, much of the offense will center around Erica Haynes-Overton. The sophomore guard averaged 14.5 points per game, but she was recognized as the Southern Conference defensive player of the year after getting 105 steals last season.
She will be joined in the backcourt by Jada Craig, a 5-foot-4 junior from Winston-Salem who battled injury much of last season. Craig played in 24 games but started just four with an average of 2.8 points per game. She had 22 steals despite averaging just 15 minutes per game.
Carley Lytton, a junior who missed last season with a medical redshirt, will give the Bucs some shooting range. She made 28 shots behind the 3-point arc her sophomore season, and she hit double-digit scoring in five games that season.
Other returners include senior forwards Britney Snowden, who averaged 7.3 points and 4.9 rebounds last season, and Raven Dean, who averaged 6.7 points and five rebounds.
Sadasia Tipps, a 6-foot-1 senior forward who started 21 games last season, is another defensive stalwart. She led the team with 5.2 rebounds per game and had a team-best 38 blocked shots.
Anajae Stephney adds more of a presence in the frontcourt. She appeared in 30 games last season, averaging 12.6 minutes per game.
MORE GUARD PLAY
The Bucs have added 5-foot-6 freshman guard Kaia Upton, a high school teammate of Haynes-Overton at East Nashville High School. She was the TSSAA Class AA tournament MVP her junior season after leading her team to the state championship.
Taisha Murphy, a 5-foot-10 junior transfer from Richmond, and Micah Sheetz, a 5-foot-8 redshirt sophomore who came from UAB, give the Bucs more size at the guard position. So does Amaya Adams, a 5-foot-10 freshman from Kansas City who can play either left or right-handed.
Kacie Fountain, a 5-foot-7 junior, comes to ETSU from the junior college route, playing last season at Southwest Mississippi Community College where she ranked ninth in the country in assists.
MORE SIZE INSIDE
Lexus Spears, a 6-foot-2 graduate player who led Morgan State in scoring last season at 14.1 points per game, will give ETSU even more of an inside presence. An All-Mid Eastern Athletic Conference player, she had 24 games of double-digit scoring and also had 38 steals and 20 blocks on the defensive end.
A pair of freshmen, E'Lease Stafford, a versatile 6-footer listed as forward and guard, and Shynia Jackson, a 6-foot-1 player from Warner Robins, Georgia, rounds out the 15-player roster.