East Carolina had planned to start its basketball season in a tournament in Fort Myers, FL. The Pirates withdrew after their opening opponent, Indiana Sate, bailed out.
“Our medical staff and the medical advisors were a little concerned when Indiana State had a few issues,” said ECU coach Joe Dooley. “As it dragged on, I think the ability to feel confident … We just didn’t feel confident we could get it done.”
The Pirates are moving forward, nonetheless, practicing twice a day and looking for a fast fill-in to get the season started this weekend.
“Hopefully we’ll pick up some more games in the next few days and just move on down the road,” Dooley said. “We have some things in the works we’re trying to sort through. Obviously, there’s some travel logistics and game logistics and COVID testing logistics so there’s a lot of moving parts.” (EDITOR’S NOTE: ECU ANNOUNCED SHORTLY AFTER THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED THAT IT WOULD OPEN THE SEASON IN THE NEWLY-CREATED 49ER TIP-OFF CLASS AGAINST HOST CHARLOTTE ON FRIDAY, NOV. 27 AT HALTON ARENA.)
Dooley doesn’t see the challenges of dealing with the coronavirus diminishing quickly.
“I think it’s going to be a year of adjustments,” he said. “You’re scheduled to play opponent A on Wednesday and you end up playing opponent B because of travel or issues. I do think there’s going to be a lot of stops and starts.
“We just talked to our guys about the whole situation. … We’re not going to play in Fort Myers. We’ll continue to look and try to find some games with some people to potentially play this weekend so, hopefully, that works out.
“We talked to a number of people and we’re hoping to get it done. … It probably won’t (be in Greenville).”
Assembling scouting reports
The Pirates are looking at preparing on the fly for an unanticipated foe.
“It would be different,” Dooley said. “We would have played three straight days (in Fort Myers). I think from a player’s perspective, it’s a little bit easier because they just have to figure out who we’re playing. From the coaches’ standpoint, we have to put together a scouting report and gather all the information on the other teams. … Obviously, we had done Indiana State, Austin Peay and Omaha. We had those three done. Now, we’ve got to pivot and see how it goes with these other games.”
Dooley said he couldn’t comment on possible opponents until contracts were signed.
Pirates basically healthy
Last year, the Pirates were beset by some significant early-season injuries during an 11-20 campaign.
“We’re pretty healthy with the exception of (Derrick Quansah, 6-11, freshman),” Dooley said. “He’s got a little bit of a stress fracture so he’s out. We’re a little banged up like everybody this time of year but we’ve had everybody else practicing. (Quansah) hasn’t practiced yet so it doesn’t really impact the rotation. We’ve got a pretty good idea of who we’re going to play. We were planning on redshirting (Quanah) anyway. With the additional year, it really doesn’t matter.”
ECU did not have any closed scrimmages as is the case normally in preparation for a season.
“The NCAA did not allow scrimmages,” Dooley said. “We’ve had referees a couple of times. We were supposed to have referees a couple of more times and we couldn’t, so I think for everybody it’s going to be an interesting beginning to the season.”
The first game on ECU’s schedule at this point is a home date with Radford on Saturday, Dec. 5. The Highlanders were 21-11 overall last season with a 15-3 mark in the Big South Conference.
“We’ve already scouted those guys,” Dooley said. “A really good program. Their best player (Carlik Jones, guard) graduate transferred to Louisville, so they’re not as experienced as they were last year but very well-coached. They run some good stuff. Good team.”
ECU has traditionally knocked off some big names within the supportive confines of Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum. The homecourt will be pretty quiet as 2020-21 gets going.
“As of right now, we’re not allowed any fans,” Dooley said. “We talked about it with the team. They can bring their own energy. It’s disappointing that there are no fans but it’s an opportunity to play and compete. You follow with the NBA how it was different. It will be a different feeling. It will almost feel like a closed scrimmage but these games count.”
Today’s schedule was planned amid an immediate future of uncertainty for the Pirates.
“We’ll practice in the morning and practice in the afternoon,” Dooley said. “Hopefully, we’ll have some clarity on what we’re doing and get a little bit of a routine.”
“We do skill development and do all of our dummy offense in the morning. We do all of our patterns. In the afternoon, we just practice live.”
The uncertainty of the start of the season has impacted how the Pirates would celebrate Thanksgiving.
“Not sure yet,” Dooley said in regard to Turkey Day. “A lot of it depends on if we’re playing or not. We’ve got a few moving parts. We’re just trying to keep it on the tracks. … It’s hour to hour.”