Chattanooga one of Blue Ribbon’s potential bracket buster mid-major teams
LAST SEASON: 18-15 (.545)
CONFERENCE RECORD: 12-4 (2nd)
2013-14 FINISH: Lost in CIT first round
SUMMARY: One of the brightest young head coaches in the country, Will Wade, has retooled Chattanooga in a hurry. Last season he took a team that had lost 40 games the previous two years, won 18 games and advanced to postseason play.
This season, the Mocs have been fortified with length, all the better for Wade—the 2013-14 SoCon coach of the year in his first season as a head coach—to run his “Chaos” system of defensive pressure and aggressive offense.
The Mocs have all their key guards back, including all-conference 6-5 junior Casey Jones (12.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.2 spg, .535 FG), key reserve Rico White (10.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, .384 3PT) and and 6-1 sophomore point guard Greg Pryor (5.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 2.0 apg). But they’ve added size at all the frontcourt positions.
Tre’ McLean is a 6-5 sophomore with a 7-2 wingspan who followed his former coach, Wes Long, from D-II Queens University of Charlotte after Long joined Wade’s staff. He averaged 5.0 points and 5.7 rebounds as a freshman. He’s become perhaps the Mocs’ best 3-point shooter and is ticketed to start.
The most impactful newcomer, on this team and perhaps in the SoCon, is 6-10, 220-pound sophomore Justin Tuoyo, who followed Wade from VCU. Tuoyo is a lanky shot blocker who reminds some observers of former Mississippi State star Jarvis Varnado, the NCAA’s career blocks leader. Tuoyo has a 7-2 wingspan and, like Varnado, is a menacing presence around the rim. He averaged just 1.2 points and 1.4 rebounds in 7.4 minutes per game as a freshman at VCU in 2012-13, but he blocked 11 shots. That translates to a 40-minute average of 2.4 blocks per game. Four of those blocks came in one game, against Western Kentucky.
Tuoyo will be joined by two junior college transfers. The more Wade sees of 6-8 Chuck Ester, who nearly signed with Stephen F. Austin, the more he likes. “He’s our most skilled post player by far,” Wade said. “He will really surprise some folks. He finishes pretty well around the rim, and he can shoot it well to 3. He’s just an active guy who makes things happen in a variety of ways, including putting it on the floor. He’s got a lot of tools.”
The other JUCO player who will make major contributions is Anthony “Duke” Ethridge, a 6-6, 225-pound junior from South Georgia Tech, where he earned second-team NJCAA All-America honors and was voted the player of the year in the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association after averaging 19.8 points and 9.3 rebounds and leading his team to a 29-5 finish and an NJCAA tournament berth.
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