Jayden Gardner averaged 18.3 points and 8.3 rebounds for East Carolina during the 2020-21 basketball season before transferring to Virginia. Pirates coach Joe Dooley has been preparing to deal with the void that Gardner’s exit presents.
“Obviously, he scored a lot of points and rebounded the ball,” Dooley said. “We’ll have to redistribute some of those points. Hopefully, with some of the guys we’re bringing in, they’ll be able to pick up the slack and maybe we’ll be able to be a little more balanced scoring.”
Synergy Basketball tweeted Tuesday that 25 percent of all scoring in Division I basketball last season had passed through the transfer portal, the movement increased by the NCAA’s removal of the regulation that transfers must sit out one season when changing programs.
Dooley and staff are working to adjust to the fluid personnel situation.
“We’ll play differently depending on how the roster ends up,” Dooley said.
J.J. Miles was the Pirates’ second leading scorer last season at 9.8 points per game. His status for 2021-22 is not certain. Besides Gardner, ECU has had Bitumba Baruti, Charles Coleman, Edra Luster, Miles James and Noah Farrakhan join the parade to the portal. after the Pirates went 8-11 overall and 2-10 in the American Athletic Conference. ECU went through some injuries and COVID pauses after a 7-1 start.
Brandon Suggs (9.6 points), Tristen Newton (8.7) and Tremont Robinson-White (8.1) are the top point producers expected to return.
“I think they will assume some of the scoring load,” Dooley said. “I think some of the guys that we’re bringing in will. I think a couple of the guys we’ve got committed will step up. They’ve been able to score at a good level already. We’ll just have to evaluate and see what’s best once we have everybody.”
The roster voids mean opportunities for incoming players.
“I think Russell Felton because he’s physically mature,” said Dooley in regard to signees with the potential to make an immediate impact . “(Tay) Mosher (small forward) and those other guys, (Alexis) Reyes (shooting guard) also add shooting, which we weren’t great at, I think all three of the guys we signed early, from a shooting and scoring standpoint, that’s really their forte.”
The Pirates are expected to bring in some size with commitments from Marlon Lester (6-9) and Jaquan Scott (6-8). Javon Small and Boston College transfer Wynston Tabbs are in line to bolster the backcourt. (View ECU’s hoops recruiting class of 2021-22 in a new window.)
The NCAA’s move to allow transfers to play immediately has had a huge impact.
“I think it’s free agency,” Dooley said. “It’s not a transfer portal. It’s free agency. I think you’re going to see this happen every year. I talked to an SEC school the other day and they have six guys on the roster. They had seven guys with their name in the portal. I think you’re going to see it every year.
“You’re going to have guys thinking they can go to a better situation. Maybe in some instances, it is, and maybe, in some instances, it isn’t. It just changes how you recruit and changes how you try to stack your roster. It’s a year-to-year deal, not a build-your-program type of deal.”
Dooley doesn’t like the new business model in the college game.
“Personally, no I don’t,” he said. “I think it’s horrific. But it is what it is so you have to adjust. That’s part of athletics, being able to adjust and figure out what’s best for the program, what’s best for the place that you’re at. It’s different place to place so it’s trying to figure out what’s best for your situation.”
Player loyalty to a program has become an item for history books.
“None, none,” Dooley said of school allegiance, “Zero. … What they’re saying is the coaches can move. I’ve always agreed that if the coach moves, the players should be able to move without penalty.”
There were erroneous indications earlier this month that Dooley was going to rejoin the Kansas program as an assistant coach.
“I don’t know what the speculation was,” Dooley said. “I don’t know who tweeted it or whatever or what that was about.”
Dooley does stay in touch with Bill Self, his former boss with the Jayhawks.
“There’s conversations with him all the time but not about that,” Dooley said. “I talk with Coach regularly. We worked together for 10 years so we talk about how to adjust recruiting, players that are leaving their league, players that are leaving our league, guys that are in the portal, guys that we’ve seen.”
Recruiting takes a step toward normalcy on June 1.
“June 1 ends the dead period so we can’t go out but people can come on campus,” Dooley said. “Right now, we can’t do anything. You can’t go off campus. You can’t have people on campus.”
Despite the restrictions, the Pirates continue to recruit.
“We will add more players,” Dooley said. “Definitely, one more frontline guy.”
The schedule for next season also is a work in progress.
“I think we still need three games, which isn’t abnormal for this time of the year,” Dooley said. “It’s actually, probably, we’re a little bit ahead. We had some games pushed back from last year. We have an exempt tournament in Myrtle Beach, an ESPN event in Myrtle Beach, in November. I don’t think it’s finalized but I do believe the schools they gave us were Old Dominion, Davidson, Boston College, Utah State, Oklahoma, Indiana State and Vanderbilt are the schools that I thought were in it.”
During the season, the Pirates worked to overcome COVID-generated issues. Now the transfer portal has emerged as a factor with which to deal.
“You have to adjust and that’s what we’re going to do.” Dooley said. “Usually, you went into a year, expecting to recruit. If you had three scholarships, you would recruit a point guard, a small forward and a power forward. Now, I think you have to recruit every position, every year and you probably have to spend some time evaluating people in other people’s programs because when they do enter the portal, you almost have to have like a draft board.
“You’ve got to be ready to look on the board and see who you’ve evaluated. Obviously, pay attention when you’re out recruiting during the summer, evaluate those guys so later on you’ve had your eyes on them. If you see them in the transfer portal, you’re able to connect and do your background, calling people in the league they were in to see what they thought of them to gather information.
“You can contact them. As soon as they’re in the portal, they’re a free agent.”