Team preview: Tennessee Tech

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Tennessee Tech's players learned a lot more than basketball during the 2005-06 season.

The Golden Eagles learned about life and perseverance and faith amid adversity, all while watching their coach, Mike Sutton, continue his fight with the paralyzing nerve disorder Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Sutton was struck with the disease in April of 2005 and was unable to move except for blinking his eyes. He was hospitalized for several months, taken off a ventilator last summer, and attended practices and games in a wheelchair.

Sutton says he continues to improve daily.

"It was a real difficult experience but I'm really proud of the way the kids and the coaches handled it," Sutton said. "[Assistant coach] Steve Payne did a great job taking care of things I couldn't do. I tried to work with the coaches as much as I could."

Payne basically ran the team when Sutton was unable, but he always made it clear Sutton was still in charge. Sutton was the recipient of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association's Most Courageous Award, and Payne was recognized as OVC Coach of the Year by CBS SportsLine.com.

Sutton missed some road games early last season but traveled with the team for the OVC schedule.

By this summer, Sutton was able to stand and walk with the assistance of a walker. He credits his wife, Karen, for her non-stop support. With her help, Sutton returned to the recruiting circuit during the summer.

"The most important person has been my wife," Sutton said. "She's been in a lot of gyms this summer. She hasn't had a day off."

As far as personnel goes, Sutton's biggest task will be replacing three perimeter players -- 6-4 guard Milone Clark (10.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.2 apg), 6-3 guard Keyon Boyd (7.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.4 apg) and 6-6 swingman Derek Stribling (8.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg).

"Our biggest question is what happens at small forward or wing," Sutton said. "Who replaces what Stribling and Clark could do? They were both athletic guys. That area, we've got to see what happens."

Despite losing its starting backcourt, Tech has experience returning there.