By BRAD KEITH
Tarleton State added a fourth member to its 2011 men's basketball recruiting class Thursday when head coach Lonn Reisman and staff released the signing of Tennessee junior college standout Tim Eriste.
Eriste, a six foot, four inch guard from Volunteer State Community College (Tenn.), averaged 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds as a sophomore last season. A popular junior college sports website, jucojunction.com, ranks him as the No. 148 juco prospect in the nation.
After being courted by various four-year schools, Eriste said Tarleton was simply where he felt the most comfortable.
"I really liked the environment when I came on my visit," said Eriste, an Orlando native. "The school has great tradition and a great basketball program and I'm comfortable with the coaches. Most schools you visit, the players don't communicate with you well, they don't tell you what it's really going to be like. The players I met at Tarleton were different, they let me know how much integrity the program has. I left there with a good feeling."
Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman, who has guided the Texans to appearances in eight of the last 10 NCAA Division II Championship tournaments including a pair of Elite Eight's, says two characteristics stood out about Eriste - versatility and toughness.
"Tim is a big, strong guard who plays with a lot of versatility. Watching him play, I really think he has a good feel for the game and can bring a level of toughness that is always an important intangible I'm looking to add to our team," said the veteran head coach who has won 483 games in 24 seasons at Tarleton. "(Eriste) put up good numbers in a very tough junior college conference (Tennessee Junior College Athletic Association) despite playing through some injuries and adversity in the first part of the season."
Eriste, a second-team TJCAA all-conference selection, had a season-best 31 points and 15 rebounds against Dyersburg State Community College on Feb. 12. He scored 28 points, grabbed 7 boards and dished out 4 assists against Jackson State College exactly one week later. He hit 49 percent from inside the arc, 34 percent from 3-point land and 64 percent from the free throw line as a sophomore.
Eriste is a physical therapy major and plans to move to Stephenville shortly after finishing the current summer semester.
"I'm going home to visit my mom for a few days then I'll try to get down there and get to work so I'll be ready," Eriste said.
He says he can't wait to take the next step in his career.
"I've been told I have the ability to play professionally, and I want to take my talent as far as it will go," says Eriste, who is joining a Tarleton program that has turned out 26 professional players in the last 13 years. "I know if I continue to work hard that Tarleton's coaches will help me improve my game and that (going pro) could definitely happen for me."
Eriste joins a recruiting class that already includes early signee Brian Word, the 2009-10 NJCAA Division II National Player of the Year, Shedrick Haynes, a senior transfer from South Florida, and Davene Carter, a high school standout at 5A Duncanville. Reisman and staff declined to name other prospects, but expect to add to that list soon.
Tarleton is coming off a 24-6 season that included a Lone Star Conference South Division championship, an appearance in the final at the LSC Championship tournament and an appearance in the South Central Regional.