GREENVILLE — East Carolina opens the 2023-24 basketball season at home against Ferrum tonight at 7 p.m. (ESPN+).
The Pirates played their first season under former Tennessee assistant Michael Schwartz in 2022-23, going 16-17 overall and 6-12 in the American Athletic Conference. ECU returns eight players from that team, including four of the top five scorers.
Additional excitement has been created by transfer guards Bobby Pettiford Jr. from Kansas and Cam Hayes from LSU.
“Last year, we spent a lot of time talking about not so much what we did but how we did it,” Schwartz said. “One of the great things about having eight returning players … is just an understanding of how we want to do things. We can focus more on what we’re doing and the execution pieces.”
R.J. Felton returns after averaging 13.8 points and 4.5 rebounds. Brandon Johnson is back after contributing 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds. Ezra Ausar averaged 9.8 points and 5.1 caroms. Iowa State transfer Jaden Walker scored at a 7.6 clip last season.
Ferrum was 10-17 in Patrick Corrigan’s first season as coach with a 5-11 record in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. The Panthers return 58 percent of their scoring, including Calvin Washington, who averaged 17.6 points on 51 percent shooting with 7.3 rebounds.
ECU leads the series, 1-0, with an 85-46 win at home on Nov. 29, 1997.
Post player Ludgy Debaut graduated but the Pirates have added size with freshmen Cyr Malonga (6-11) and Callum Richard (6-10).
Guard Kalib LaCount, guard Quentin Diboundje, forward Benjamin Bayela and forward Valentino Pinedo bring experience within the program.
Guard-forward Ta’Korrie Faison averaged 24.8 points and 12.7 rebounds last season as a senior at Goldsboro.