There was big news involving an East Carolina athletic program over the past week.
And no, it wasn’t the baseball team’s galant run through the loser’s bracket to an NCAA regional title — although that was newsworthy in its own right, especially the way the Pirates did it.
Overshadowed by the success of ECU coach Cliff Godwin and his team, and their ongoing quest for a College World Series trip, is the biggest signing of basketball coach Joe Dooley’s short second tenure in Greenville.
We’re talking big, as in 7 feet tall, 240 pounds. And big, as in the fact that three-star big man Charles Coleman turned down an offer from Duke to play at ECU.
Yep, that Duke.
Granted, the Blue Devils began recruiting Coleman late and were really only interested in signing him once they learned that rising senior Marques Bolden was staying in the draft. The young man had to know that he would be little more than a one-year stop-gap at Duke before coach Mike Krzyzewski recruited over him by bringing in another one-and-done stud.
Then again, how many times has anybody under any circumstances turned down Coach K to play for the Pirates?
In the end, Coleman cited his relationship with Dooley and assistant Raphael Chillious for choosing ECU over the likes of Duke, American Athletic Conference rivals Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida and others.
“I was both overwhelmed and thankful for the outpouring of interest and scholarship offers from some of the most prestigious universities and programs in the country after I reopened my recruitment,” the former Wake Forest commit from Boston’s Dexter School wrote on social media. “However, I can only choose one school and basketball program to attend next year.
“Both my family and I are people who make serious life decisions based upon relationships and comfortability. I’ve built really strong relationships over the last four years but I feel most comfortable with the relationship I’ve built with Coach Dooley, Coach Chillious and the staff at East Carolina University.”
Coleman is the 11th signee and fourth incoming freshman to join the Pirates this offseason. It’s an addition that is by far the most significant — and not just because of his other offers or the fact that his commitment solidifies the status of Dooley and Chillious as two of the premier recruiters in college basketball.
From a more practical sense, it gives the Pirates an element they’ve rarely had over the years — a skilled big man with the ability to become a difference maker on the low post.
Assuming he’s able to step right in and make a significant immediate contribution, Coleman along with 6-11 JUCOs Ludgy Debaut and Edra Luster have the potential to take some of the pressure off ECU’s already established young star Jayden Gardner.
As 6-6, Gardner did an admirable job last season battling bigger opponents in the paint and on the boards. Just think of how much more effective he could be if freed up to play his natural power forward position with defenders having to focus on stopping someone other than him?
It would be big. Maybe not College World Series big. But bigger than anything that’s happened in a long time for ECU basketball.