The East Carolina basketball program has so many new faces that many of us are still trying to learn everyone by name.
These Pirates have dug themselves an early season hole. Now the squad hopes to use December as a chance to dig themselves out.
It won’t be easy. ECU opened the month by falling to Coppin State, 85-75. The Pirates went into that game a double-digit favorite. That moved the ECU mark to just 2-7 through nine games this season.
Second-year coach Joe Dooley knew what he was in for when he took this job for a second time. He knew there would be growing pains. More than that he knew that ECU down right ached for better basketball.
Injuries have interrupted progress so far. His team obviously has more talent than it did a year ago. The injuries have prevented any type of cohesiveness within the unit. That’s especially evident on defense.
“We’ve got a lack of familiarity, that’s evident,” said Dooley after the loss to Coppin State. “We’re disjointed on both ends of the floor. We’ve gotten guys back, but they haven’t practiced enough. We have minute limits on a couple of these guys, so you get out there and you have 30 minutes and try to prioritize on what they are going to do. This month of practice is going to be vital for us moving forward. We’ve got to get solid at a few things and then build from there.”
I don’t think many of us realize how hard it is to teach fundamentals of defense. I especially think in this age of AAU and travel teams that defense is put on the back-burner, and players just don’t understand.
I think the defense will eventually come around. Dooley says his squad drills on the concepts on a daily basis.
“I really think the December schedule will help us, with all of the practice days that we’ll get,” he said.
Up next for the struggling Pirates is a Saturday afternoon match up with 6-2 Campbell.
Maryland-Eastern Shore then comes to town and on paper appears to be a team that will give the Pirates some relief. The Hawks are just 1-10, but have played a very difficult schedule with losses to Oklahoma, Penn State, Stanford and the same Liberty team that beat ECU.
The holidays feature matches with Charlotte and then Eastern Kentucky before the Pirates ring in the New Year with a trip to Wichita State to tip off league play in the American Athletic Conference.
“We really have to shore up some things this month,” Dooley emphasized. “We have to be more consistent and it all starts with defense.”
Hopefully this team will get through exams OK and then have all thoughts on basketball.
That 2-7 hole is a big one for Joe Dooley and his Pirates to try and dig out of.