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View from the East
Thursday, April 25, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

New S&C facility affords new possibilities


Whitten credits Connors

East Carolina strength and conditioning coach Jim Whitten marvels at the 22,000-square foot space on the ground floor of the new multi-purpose building that will be devoted to what he does for the Pirates — develop their bodies for athletic competition.

Landscaping is being completed around the building positioned between Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum and Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. It will be in use shortly.

“The No. 1 thing about that building is all that it encompasses,” said Whitten, who played defensive end at Virginia Tech in the late 1980s — spanning the Hokies’ coaching transition between Bill Dooley and Frank Beamer. “It enables us to do things we couldn’t do before. Weather dictated what we could do before.”

The Pirates don’t have to go outside to do agility drills now. There’s a section of field turf in the center of the first floor that will permit those activities. No longer will ECU athletes have to brave the elements to do sprints. A 56-yard running track will allows 40-yard dashes to be done indoors. A special carpeted area is designed for plyometrics — jumping exercises that develop explosive power. And there are enough weight machines and barbells to work out a small army.

“I was at Virginia Tech a couple of weeks ago,” said Whitten, who still bench presses 425 pounds. “I used to think their weight room was so great and grand. I see what we have over here and I think we’ve outdone them a little bit.”

Whitten said ECU’s old weight room on the first floor of the Ward Sports Medicine Building was not representative of Pirates athletics, football in particular.

“To have to show recruits a little weight room wasn’t a fair assessment of what the program is,” Whitten said.

Whitten’s predecessor was Jeff Connors, who left for a similar position at North Carolina when John Bunting became coach of the Tar Heels.

“That building (ECU's new S&C facility) is a tribute to what Coach Connors worked for and good timing on my part,” Whitten said.

There is a feeling of open space and light in the weight room, which is attributable to the sheer expanse of the layout, skylights and glassed walls. Football players can work out in the weight room and gaze out into Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium where they will ultimately use the strength they are developing.

Connors has been bashed by a segment of Pirates fans who see his move to Chapel Hill as nothing less than treason. But Whitten appreciates the foundation that Connors left.

“I’m a whole different person with a different coaching style,” Whitten said. “I think the outside perception is that it has been a tough transition. But, in house, the players have been great. When you come in after someone who did a good job, it makes it a whole lot easier.”

Whitten is in effect the coach the players report to this time of year and until preseason practice starts. NCAA regulations prohibit coaching by members of the football staff during the offseason expect in spring drills.

During the conditioning phase, Whitten has to be wary of players taking short cuts.

“In this job, some people try to figure ways to get around things,” Whitten said. “In that way, it’s kind of like being a teacher. But the majority of kids have the attitude that they want to get better.”

Whitten is working to get them better and staying in shape himself. The Pirates strength coach, who was recommended to football coach Steve Logan by Beamer, works out several times a week and plays racquetball with ECU running backs coach Jerry McManus, whom Whitten said he seldom beats.

“Coach McManus had a mole on his head removed and had a bandage on his head,” said the muscular Whitten. “The joke that was going around was that I had taken out my racquetball frustrations on him.”

Herrion’s haul almost complete     <<< Top of Page >>>

East Carolina men’s basketball coach Bill Herrion may wrap up recruiting for next year’s incoming class by this weekend. The Pirates signed Luke MacKay, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound native of Perth, Australia, to a letter of intent on Tuesday.

Herrion recruited MacKay out of Lon Morris Junior College in Jacksonville, Texas where he averaged about 15 points per game as a freshman. MacKay missed most of this past season with a broken hand as his team went 25-5 and won the Region XIV championship.

MacKay visited ECU when the Pirates hosted Cincinnati in their Conference USA opener on Jan. 5, but MacKay subsequently made a verbal commitment to Oregon State. His plans changed when Oregon State coach Ritchie McKay became head coach at New Mexico. MacKay got in touch with the ECU basketball staff, which was still looking for experienced shooting help.

“We’re getting a good basketball player who can shoot,” Herrion said. “He’s a smart kid who fits what we need with this class, which is to solidify our perimeter. It gives us more depth. He’ll be a solid player on the perimeter.”

That leaves the Pirates with one scholarship. ECU is pursuing Derrick Wiley of Moberly Junior College in Moberly, MO. Wiley is a 6-4 wing player who visited Greenville about two weekends ago. He spent a portion of his high school career in the Raleigh-Durham area.

If the Pirates don’t get Wiley, sources indicate there’s a player at Connecticut who may be interested in transferring to ECU. That last available scholarship may be awarded before the weekend.

Already signed are forward Corey Rouse of Kinston, guard Belton Rivers of Atlanta Douglass and MacKay. One scholarship is being held for forward Jason Herring, who is enrolled in school as a non-qualifier.

Wiley or the UConn transfer should nab the last scholarship and Herrion will have accomplished his stated postseason goal — shoring up the perimeter to go with a talented returning frontcourt that includes Gabriel Mikulas, Moussa Badiane and Erroyl Bing.

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02/23/2007 12:57:29 AM

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