By TREY WILLIAMS
Marty Story played against Tennessee twice while at ETSU, and the Bucs won both of those games in Knoxville’s Thompson-Boling Arena. ETSU won 83-70 when Story was a sophomore during the 1989-90 season and recorded an 87-79 victory when the teams met again Story’s senior season.
“We had the mindset that it was our game to take,” Story said. “We felt we had the better teams. We felt we had the better chemistry. And we felt that we had more of an edge.”
Tennessee had high school All-American Allan Houston when Story first faced the Vols. But Story scored four of ETSU’s first six points and assisted an Alvin West 3-pointer that capped a game-opening 11-4 run. Among his baskets was a dunk on an assist from Keith “Mister” Jennings that gave ETSU a 56-45 lead midway through the second half.
“I went baseline and got a nice little jam,” Story said. “Honestly, I think that was one of the best dunks of my career. I tried to tear the rim down. I tomahawked that one.”
The barrel-chested 6-foot-3 Story scored 882 points during his career at ETSU.
“Marty could’ve scored a lot more,” Jennings said. “He was the ultimate teammate.”
Story could’ve signed to play football at Tennessee, but opted for Clemson. He transferred to ETSU his first year.
It was the right move. Playing with teammates such as Jennings, Greg Dennis, Calvin Talford, Rodney English, Alvin West, Major Geer, Trazel Silvers and Jason Niblett, ETSU went to the NCAA Tournament all four seasons Story played. They beat Arizona to open March Madness during his senior season in ’92.
“It was a beautiful time,” Story said. “It was fun to be around those guys. It was fun to play with those guys. It was fun to joke around and cut up with those guys. It was easy winning with those guys.
“We all fed off of each other. … I mean everybody was just on the same page. It was magical.”
Story guarded the talented Houston to open the second half of the victory in ’89.
“One time I D’d him up and I think he dribbled it off his leg out of bounds and I got hyped and sort of pumped my fist in the air to sort of get the crowd up because I was hyped,” Story said. “He was that All-American type player, so I was really hyped about getting the opportunity to show him that even though you are an elite player, I consider myself, when dialed in, an elite defender.”
ETSU had a large contingent that could be heard cheering when Story forced the turnover – and when he dunked.
“I went to a Kentucky-Tennessee football game last year and the fan support was phenomenal,” Story said. “That just reminded me of how it was my four years at ETSU. We had about the same, if not more, everywhere we went. There was a wave of blue and gold no matter how far it was or how close it was. I think that’s another reason why we played at such a high level.”
Story said ETSU was just as motivated to beat Tennessee his senior season.
“I even tweaked my knee, I think, that Saturday prior to going down there,” Story said, “but there was no way I was gonna miss that game. We were just unbelievably hyped – the locker room, the bus, the focus. I’m telling you, it was unreal. We had that killer edge. … Our focus for instate games, wow, it was like no other.”
Story, whose Lady Pioneers will play in a tournament in Charleston, S.C., that begins Monday, is eager to watch Thursday’s game in Freedom Hall. ETSU, which includes walk-on Dillon Reppart (Daniel Boone), beat Mississippi State last week. The young Volunteers have looked good of late in hard-fought losses to North Carolina and Gonzaga.
“I think both of them are playing well,” Story said. “ETSU’s played some big people. So they’re battle tested. Of course, UT has as well. I think it’s gonna be a good game.”
One thing Story is certain of: if the Bucs win, they’ll never forget it.