#7: 2003 Southern Conference Championship
For the 7th best moment in ETSU basketball history I’ve decided to go with ETSU’s 2003 Southern Conference tournament championship.
Whenever ETSU won the Southern Conference tournament in 2003 it had been a long 11 year drought for the Bucs which hadn’t made the NCAA tournament prior to that since 1992. In addition to not being to the NCAA tournament in 11 years ETSU also had a couple of very bad season during those times, including two back-to-back 7 win seasons in 1996 and 1997.
Coach Ed Dechellis took over a mess of a team when he was hired in 1997 but slowly he began to rebuild the program. In his 3rd season the Bucs won 17 games and by his 5th season ETSU had won the regular season title. There was still some work to do as ETSU came up short on a NCAA tournament bid in 2001 and 2002, but everyone knew a Socon tournament title was imminent with Zakee Wadood and Jerald Fields entering their Junior season.
In the tournament ETSU had to face the College of Charleston, who was briefly ranked in the top 25 earlier in the year, in the semi-finals in front a very pro-Charleston crowd in the North Charleston Arena. The Bucs were up to the challenge as they took out the regular season champs and faced Chattanooga in the finals. The hard work of rebuilding a basketball team, who was the worst team in the conference just 6 years earlier, had finally paid off as ETSU knocked off Chattanooga in the Southern Conference finals. For me this win was one of the most satisfying wins I’ve ever experienced as an ETSU fan. The long wait of 11 years seemed more like 20 years, especially after experiencing the 1996 and 1997 season when I thought ETSU may never return to the NCAA tournament.
ETSU would go on to face #2 seeded Wake Forest in the first round of the NCAA tournament where they nearly pulled off the upset, losing 76-73.
I’ve including a few videos from 2003 in this post. The one at the top of the page is a highlight video of both Zakee Wadood and Jerald Fields in 2003 and 2004 and the two at the bottom is Tim Smith against Wake Forest and a last minute comeback against UNCG in 2003.
Keep checking back this week as I’ll continue to count down the top 10 moments in ETSU basketball history.
Brad Nuckles hit’s last second shot in 2003 game against UNCG
Tim Smith vs Wake Forest in the 2003 NCAA tournament