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College Sports in the Carolinas


View from the East
Monday, November 3, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

League shakeup may benefit Herrion's hoopsters


Most of the East Carolina community is disappointed that the Pirates will likely not get an invitation to the Big East Conference this week.

Unofficial reports have it that the league will take Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Marquette and DePaul from Conference USA when Big East presidents meet on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

ECU basketball coach Bill Herrion isn’t among those who will be too downcast if that is the scenario that indeed develops. Herrion has struggled to get the Pirates program on a competitive level with the national powers that the Big East appears poised to incorporate from C-USA.

The loss of Louisville and other hardwood powerhouses means a more realistically competitive environment for the Pirates in C-USA.

“Programs like Louisville, Cincinnati and Marquette have enjoyed basketball success for many, many years,” Herrion said. “I don’t know if we are really ever going to catch up with those people. I don’t know if it’s wrong to say that. I think the name of the game right now is being in a league where you can be successful and win games.”

C-USA preseason coaches poll

1. Louisville
2. Cincinnati
3. Marquette
4. Memphis
5. UAB
6. Charlotte
7. DePaul
8. Saint Louis
9. Southern Miss
10. South Florida
11. Texas Christian
12. Tulane
13. East Carolina
14. Houston

Charlotte and Saint Louis may be headed for the Atlantic 10, which means that six of the top eight teams in the C-USA preseason coaches poll may be exiting the league.

Herrion already feels like the Pirates have gotten a break competitively because they won’t play Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette and DePaul home and home this season. C-USA has dissolved division play and instead ECU will match up with UAB, Charlotte and South Florida twice.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” he said. “You take those teams out of our building and it may hurt our attendance. The interest in the program for our fans — a lot of it is because we play these people. But I also think winning is winning. If you win in any league, if you’re successful — people will come see you play.”

Herrion has had to adjust his recruiting approach since taking the Pirates job when ECU was playing in the Colonial Athletic Association.

More adjustments may be imminent.

“Kids want to know who you’re going to play against,” Herrion said. “That’s helped us get kids the last couple of years. Now you switch gears again. The first thing you look at when you see a kid is ‘Can he play for us?’ Then you ask can he get on the floor with Cincinnati, Louisville, Marquette — the people we’re chasing.

"Now you may look at kids, some of them, a little differently. It’s another adjustment. In a way we’re going to our third league in five years, in a way.”

ECU will open on Nov. 22 at home against Campbell at 7 p.m. The Pirates played the Camels in Fayetteville last season to set up a return game in Greenville this season.

Louisville, Cincinnati and programs on that level seldom play a program such as Campbell away from home. They can make the financial guarantees to bring opponents they expect to beat to their gyms. They can in effect buy wins that help them get ready for league play and also fatten their record for selection to the NCAA Tournament.

It’s just one of the factors that puts ECU at a disadvantage against present company in C-USA.

Herrion knows what’s best for football is best for the athletics program in general.

“The whole landscape is revolving around football,” he said. “We know that. I think we’d all like to be aligned with a bowl championship series conference in the long run. It would benefit everybody from a financial standpoint. That’s first and foremost but you look at basketball and maybe we’ll have a chance to be more successful in a different league.”

Herrion said he has often heard the question on the recruiting trail recently from potential players, “What’s happening with your league?”

The answer may be one that will make C-USA a better competitive fit for the Pirates in hoops in the future.

Young World Stars

The East Carolina basketball team will face outside opposition for the first time as it prepares for the 2003-04 season with a home exhibition game against the Young World Stars at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.

The Young World Stars are a group of high school age eastern Europeans, whose preseason tour is being coordinated by a former associate of Herrion’s, Scott Beeten. Herrion and Beeten were on the staff at George Washington at one time. Herrion will get a chance to see his ECU team in a game situation and do some possible recruiting evaluation as well.

“Most of these kids are looking to come to the U.S. and possibly go to school,” said the Pirates coach.

Herrion's squad will have an open practice and its annual Purple-Gold scrimmage on Saturday before the Pirates football team plays South Florida at 2 p.m. for homecoming.

Rivers returns, word pending on Foster

Sophomore guard Belton Rivers returned to practice on Wednesday and is 100 percent after sustaining a concussion on the second day of practice when he ran into a pick set by Garth Grindley. NCAA regulations permit players such as freshman forward Keith Foster from Winston-Salem Reynolds to practice for 14 days with the day while his eligibility status is determined. Herrion hopes to know the ruling on Foster before the exhibition game on Thursday.

With Rivers out, freshman Mike Cook got some work at point guard.

“He might not have speed and quickness,” Herrion said of Cook. “But he’s a very physical kind of control guy.”

Another freshman, Japhet McNeil, may start at the point.

“He’s our one true point guard in the program,” Herrion said. “That’s the only position he’s going to play.”

The Pirates should have an effective blend of experience and youth. The seniors include Gabriel Mikulas, Erroyl Bing and Derrick Wiley. Mikulas and Bing have been Pirate mainstays since they were freshmen. Wiley transferred in last season and led ECU with a 14.0 average.

“The kids are working hard,” Herrion said. “Part of the focus this time of year is instilling a work ethic. We have some older guys who have been through the wars and they are leading the way for our younger kids.

"I think overall we’re going to be quicker, more athletic and stronger than we have been, which are attributes you need in this league.”

ECU was picked 13th in the preseason by C-USA’s 14 head coaches. The top 12 teams in the league standings will make the conference tournament field March 10-13 in Cincinnati.

Recruiting loss

ECU recruiting target Miguel Iyala, a 6-foot-7 wing shooter from Fullerton (Cal.) Junior College, has apparently committed to Texas A&M, which is closer to his Mexican homeland. Iyala made a visit to ECU the weekend that the Pirates hosted West Virginia in football.

Carolinas football pecking order

Here’s how the Division I-A football programs in the Carolinas stack up through games of Nov. 1.


  1. N.C. State (7-3, 4-2 ACC) ... Wolfpack wins thriller over Virginia, 51-37.

  2. Wake Forest (5-4, 3-3 ACC) ... Demon Deacons get running game rolling and thump Clemson, 45-17.

  3. South Carolina (5-4, 2-4 SEC) ... Gamecock rally falls short at Ole Miss.

  4. Clemson (5-4, 3-3 ACC) ... Two Tiger turnovers turn into touchdowns in loss at Wake.

  5. Duke (2-7, 0-5 ACC) ... Blue Devils hang with Tennessee for three quarters.

  6. North Carolina (1-8, 0-5 ACC) ... Tar Heels lacking defensively in
    59-21 loss at Maryland.

  7. East Carolina (1-8, 1-4 C-USA) ... Memphis pulls away from 17-17 tie at half for 41-24 win.

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02/23/2007 12:41:18 AM

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