East Carolina will open the basketball season in search of respect from the rest of the American Athletic Conference.
Coach Joe Dooley’s Pirates were picked 11th of 12 teams in the American Preseason Coaches’ Poll on Monday. Dooley and sophomore forward Jayden Gardner represented ECU at the league’s annual Media Day in Philadelphia.
Memphis and Houston were the picks to win the conference title for 2019-2020. The Tigers and Cougars tied in the voting by the coaches.
Gardner was named second-team All-AAC in the league’s preseason poll.
“I can’t wait to get out there with my guys and get started,” Gardner told the assembled media in Philadelphia on Monday.
Gardner led all freshmen in the American in scoring a year ago. He was the only Pirate to start all 31 games. He averaged 16.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in his first year at ECU.
Dooley had told everyone that he wanted to build around his prized freshman from a year ago. Dooley did just that, bringing in 11 new players to go along with his power forward from up the road at Heritage High School.
“We are a lot bigger along the front court and longer on the wing,” Dooley told the media. “We’re putting the pieces together. It’s been interesting and challenging. I think it has helped us coaching-wise because we have to be thorough.”
Dooley knows he’s just getting started. He also knows that opening night is just around the corner, and that this second year of his second stint at the helm of the Pirates will feature all kinds of new faces.
“I like where we are at this point,” said Dooley. “I’m not ready to start playing games just yet. I think if coaches had their way we would just practice and recruit, and never play.”
Dooley smiled, because deep down that’s the reason for all of the work, to lace’m up on game night and battle it out when the lights come on.
American Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll:
t-1. Houston (7) – 113
t-1. Memphis (4) – 113
3. Cincinnati (1) – 94
4. Wichita State – 88
5. South Florida – 79
6. Connecticut – 75
7. Temple – 72
8. Southern Methodist – 47
9. Central Florida – 40
10. Tulsa – 36
11. East Carolina – 20
12. Tulane – 15