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College Sports in the Carolinas


View from the East
Monday, May 5, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

NYC backcourt star will get early chance to shine


East Carolina should be getting a point guard with a pedigree when it signs 5-foot-11 Japhet McNeil to a scholarship, possibly today. McNeil led Christ the King to the New York state Catholic Class A state championship with 27 points in a 71-54 win over Bronx St. Raymond’s.

McNeil’s high school has produced point guards Omar Cook, who left after his freshman year at St. John’s to try and make it in the NBA, and Derrick Phelps, who helped North Carolina to the NCAA championship in 1993.

McNeil will have the opportunity to play immediately at ECU since starting point guard Travis Holcomb-Faye, the first recruit in the Bill Herrion coaching era, was the only senior on last year’s 12-15 team.

McNeil’s Chrst the King team avenged an earlier loss to St. Raymond’s in the New York city title game when it won the state final. In the city championship, McNeil was 0-for-13 shooting. He said he forced shots instead of waiting for the game to come to him.

He corrected his approach in the state final and made 7-of-15 from the field, including 3-of-4 behind the arc.

Recent signees Mike Cook and left-hander Frank Robinson should help the Pirates’ perimeter scoring. McNeil is a true point guard who can handle the role of distributor. Inside scorers such as Erroyl Bing, Moussa Badianne and Gabriel Mikulas should benefit. With better outside shooting, defenses will have to extend and won’t be able to collapse on ECU’s inside players.

McNeil is rated No. 124 nationally in Hoop Scoop’s top 200. One service rated him the No. 22 prospect in the New York City area.

Pirates still looking

The addition of McNeil will mean the Pirates’ shopping cart is almost full but it’s not quite time for Coach Bill Herrion to be looking for a golf game. There is one remaining scholarship available, which ECU could use in a variety of ways. The Pirates could bring in a junior college point guard or begin restocking the frontcourt which will lose Bing and Mikulas after next season.

Herrion and hoops assistant Greg Herenda played some golf with former football assistants Doug Martin and Bob Leahy last summer.

“We didn’t fare too well,” Herrion said. “I haven’t gotten to know the guys on the new football staff yet but maybe we can find some guys we can beat.”

Leave the line alone

Among the topics being discussed last week by the NCAA rules committee were moving the 3-point line back nine inches to the international distance of 20 feet, 6 inches — a proposal that won’t get immediate support from the Pirates.

“The way we shot, they don’t need to move it back,” Herrion said.

The Pirates hit just 27.9 percent of their 3-point attempts last season.

The rules committee also mulled widening the lane from 12 feet to 16 feet or making it a trapezoid like in international competition.

“There are people who say if you push the 3-point line back a little bit then maybe it opens up the post play a little bit,” Herrion said. “Personally, I like the game and the rules where they’re at.”

Pirates staying stateside

Plans for the ECU men’s basketball team to play overseas in France in August have been put on hold.

“We’re not going to do it and the reason why is concern for safety,” Herrion said. “With the war and unrest, it’s not a good time to go.”

Eustachy mistake

The conduct of Iowa State men’s basketball coach Larry Eustachy has been a topic of conversation, and whether he should be dismissed based on his presence and conduct at various student parties has been a matter for debate.

“When you’re in our position as a head coach, you’re represent your university and you have to represent it the right way,” Herrion said. “When you decide to go into this profession you put yourself under a microscope. You have to be aware who’s watching and the decisions you make. Being aware of how you represent your university is part of the job.

“It’s an unfortunate deal. The guy’s a heckuva coach. You don’t want to see it end for him because of that. You give him credit for admitting he has a problem. The most important thing for him is taking care of the problem and you look at that. The Alabama guy (former Tide football coach Mike Price) — at the bigger schools, you’re in the public eye so much — you have to stay on top of that.”

Talent departs

Reece Gaines of Louisville and Dwyane Wade of Marquette won’t be headaches for Herrion next season. Gaines was a senior and Wade has opted for the NBA after leading the Golden Eagles to the Final Four as a junior.

“Those are two guys we had to play against four times,” Herrion said.

When division play is eliminated next season, ECU will meet most of the league’s teams only once per season. The Pirates will play Charlotte, UAB and South Florida twice — which is probably preferable to playing Cincinnati, Marquette and Louisville twice.

“A great underclassman is leaving the league,” Herrion said of Wade. “He gave the conference credibility and notoriety but I’m kind of glad I don’t have to coach against him anymore.”

Non-conference scheduling

There have been some discussions with UNC Wilmington about re-establishing a non-conference series in basketball but Herrion said next season may not be the right time.

“Obviously, they’ve built a tremendous program,” Herrion said. “We’ve got to continue to make sure we win non-conference games. That’s a big part of it. We can’t be .500 or below when we enter league play in January.”

The Pirates will return games to Ole Miss and George Mason next season.

Herrion doesn’t know if he’s ready to schedule College of Charleston, where his brother, Tom, just completed a 25-8 season as head coach of the Cougars.

“He’s my brother and maybe because of our intensity that could jeopardize our relationship, although when they throw the ball up I sometimes don’t know who’s on the other bench,” Herrion said. “I don’t know if that will happen although I think people might like to see it. It would be interesting.

“With the season they had, I don’t know If I want to play them.”

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02/23/2007 12:41:07 AM


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