The East Carolina basketball team is in the midst of an extended break. The Pirates downed visiting Maryland Eastern Shore, 70-47, on Dec. 2 and won’t return to action until taking on host Charlotte on Dec.18.
“Obviously, we had exams mixed in this deal,” ECU coach Joe Dooley said. “There’s a million things we need to work on. We’re sort of prioritizing the areas that we most needed so we can get better at those types of deals. … The biggest thing we have to figure out is probably who we’re going to play. For the most part, there hasn’t been a ton of separation.
“We have had some guys a little nicked up that haven’t been able to practice. Then after that we’ve got to be able to evaluate where we’re going to be able to score from. I think our defensive numbers for the most part have been good. Part of that scoring deal is making sure we take care of the ball. We haven’t shot the ball particularly well, especially from three.
“If we can take care of the ball and figure out some different ways to score, the defense can always get better, but our defensive numbers so far have been pretty good.”
Opponents are shooting 40.5 percent against the Pirates (6-4) and are averaging 69.2 points per game.
“We had a couple of days where we just did skill (development),” Dooley said of the break. “Some of that was on purpose because we’ve got some guys a little dinged up. Doing that also allowed us to do some recruiting, which is important, too.”
Gardner gets going
Freshman Jayden Gardner is averaging 19.0 points and 8.6 rebounds for ECU, both team highs.
“He’s not afraid,” Dooley said. “He’s aggressive. I think he’s playing with a lot of confidence. The good thing for us and him is I think he’ll continue to get better and better.
“Right now, he’s a very good 18-foot jump shooter. I think as his game matures, maybe not necessarily this year, maybe the latter part of next year, as he expands to the 3-point line, I think the court will get even bigger for him. The court will stretch. He’s a very good mid-range shooter. He can post up around the basket. He’s got good feel. The good thing for him is I think he will continue to get better.”
Davis pacing Charlotte
Senior Jon Davis is scoring at a 20.4 rate for Charlotte (2-5).
“When you look at it statistically, (Jon) Davis is obviously a very, very good player,” Dooley said. “He’s put up a lot of points. He’s played well historically against East Carolina. For the most part, their games have been low possession games. They’re averaging 59 points a game. That means you’ve got to value each possession.
“There will be longer defensive possessions so you’ve got to stay in a stance and guard for a while. I do think that those type of deals — not allowing him to run wild. The crazy thing is that even though they don’t score a lot of points, he’s especially good in transition.”
The Pirates announced three signees in mid-November. The incoming class includes Logan Curtis, Tyrie Jackson and Tremont Robinson.
Curtis is a senior at Calvert Hall High School in Maryland.
“Good length and athleticism,” Dooley said of Curtis. “I like his versatility. We like a lot of his upside. He’s one of those guys that down the road could be a very good player.”
The ECU coach said Jackson, a student at Northwest Florida State College, is helping in the efforts to bring in other players.
“Toughness,” Dooley said. “I think Coach (Steve) DeMeo is one of the best junior college coaches in the country. He’s raved about his toughness and what a great teammate he is. He’s a great recruiter. He’s been on the phone with everybody else that we’re recruiting, trying to create interest. He’s been great.”
Tremont Robinson will have three years of eligibility remaining when he transfers to ECU from Garden City Community College in Kansas.
“Length at the point,” Dooley said of Robinson. “He can play a lot of ways but he brings some length and athleticism. He’s a very good defender. He’s efficient offensively. With three years, he’s a guy that you’ll have around that you can do a lot of things with.”
The first-year coach in his second stint with the Pirates has learned some things about his personnel in the first 10 games.
“We’ve got to find different ways to score and be creative on how to score without complicating it,” Dooley said. “Our guys just need a lot of repetitions, a lot of game-like situations. We are very young. We’ve got to try to figure out how to put them in the best position to be successful. Sometimes the drills don’t simulate the games. We’ve played 10 games and, already, four of them have been one-possession games. We have had some late-game situation work.”
Looking around the AAC
The Pirates open play in the American Athletic Conference at Southern Methodist on Jan. 2. It looks like the league will be tough again.
“Obviously, Houston is off to a great start,” Dooley said. “Memphis has had some good wins. Cincinnati has been steady. Connecticut has a big game coming up with Villanova (Dec. 22). They’ve played very well. They’ve lost to Florida State, Arizona and Iowa. Those are three really good teams. The conference is good. Tulsa had a big win the other night over K-State. There’s a lot of balance.”
ECU has announced recently plans for a training table for athletes as well as an extension for Dave Hart as athletic advisor to Dr. Cecil Staton, ECU Chancellor.
“Dave Hart says it’s not a want, it’s a necessity,” Dooley said of the proposed training table. “A lot of these things that people in our league have — it’s not like we’re trying to put leather walls up in our locker room or anything. These are things that are almost standard-issue type deals. I think with the training table, it’s a big part of the strength and conditioning development.
“Dave keeps talking about it, morale. It’s a big morale deal. When our student-athletes see the guys at Memphis and the people at UConn at their training table and they’re not getting those deals, they’re thinking in their own minds, this is important. It’s human nature. Those are things that Dave has addressed and is addressing. These are things we need to make sure we get for our program.”