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View from the 'ville
Thursday, April 24, 2008

By Al Myatt

Mack's program a work in progress

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

The playing time of guard Brandon Evans diminished during his sophomore season to 7.6 minutes per game as he averaged 3.0 points and had an assist to turnover ratio of 11 to 21, so it wasn't surprising that Evans announced his plans to transfer after East Carolina's 11-19 season in 2007-08. Evans averaged 3.5 points and 13.1 minutes as a freshman.

What was surprising was post player John Fields' decision that to leave the Pirates program after a sophomore campaign in which he averaged 9.6 points and 5.0 rebounds, both second on the team. Fields had 56 blocked shots on the season and is second to Moussa Badiane in career blocked shots at ECU.

Fields averaged 23.8 minutes per game, a number that was limited to a degree by his team-high 101 personal fouls. He had a career-high 26 points as he came off the bench in a 71-67 loss to UNC-Wilmington on Dec. 22. Fields made 13 of 17 shots from the field and blocked four shots in that contest.

Fields started only nine games as a sophomore. Pirates coach Mack McCarthy said after the UNCW game that he brought Fields off the bench as a motivational tactic. Fields was a bit of a rolling stone on the high school level as well playing at Fayetteville Seventy-First, Fayetteville Academy and Jack Britt.

"You could look at any program and you could see some attrition," McCarthy said. "Not every program and not every coaching staff fits every kid and vice-versa. Brandon was unhappy with his playing time, and John was looking for something different.

"I wish 'em both the best."

McCarthy conducted interviews with all of his players after his initial season as head coach.

"We had a discussion with all of our kids about what direction we're going to take the program," McCarthy said. "This is a hard job. East Carolina's not a hard job, in particular, but basketball coaching is a hard job.

"Building a winning team is a hard task. It's hard enough when everyone is pointed in the same direction. It really gets to be difficult when not everybody wants the same thing or has the same goals. That's going to happen on occasion.

"We'd like to have continuity and stability. That's something we're going to work toward."

Talent search

The departures will free up a pair of scholarships that will allow McCarthy and staff to look at bringing in some immediate help.

"I think there are some players who can help us immediately," McCarthy said. "Every year you debate that scenario. I think there are players who can impact us in a positive way. We have a couple of critical needs.

"We signed a kid early (Raheem Smith) who can play the point guard and two guard, which I think is a big deal. That gives us a little depth. We've got a good core of folks but there are certainly a couple of needs that we think we can address.

"We'll never sign a player just to sign a player but we think we can address some of the needs."

And what might McCarthy have on his shopping list?

"We've got a couple of shooters in (James) Legan and (Sam) Hinnant," said the Pirates coach. "Jontae Sherrod might very well be a slashing scorer, but someone who scores off the dribble a little bit more might be a need. There are some really good players in the league who combine those talents like the (Jermaine) Taylor kid at Central Florida and (Stefon) Jackson at UTEP, Jeremy Wise at Southern Miss, (Robert) Vaden is a guy like that at UAB.

"We've got some guys who are good shooters, but one who is more of a scorer might be somebody who could help our team. And then you're always looking for a post guy. We really only have one true center in the program and that's Chad Wynn. He had a good freshman year and he can get a lot better but we probably do need some more help in the post area.

"We're not a good rebounding basketball team. Regardless of position, somebody that can rebound would help us."

McKillop was a Pirate

East Carolina athletic director Terry Holland takes pride in the performance of Bob McKillop as basketball coach at Davidson. Holland was AD at his alma mater during McKillop's early years as Wildcats head coach.

It's an obscure bit of trivia that McKillop, who guided the Cinderella Wildcats to the Elite Eight of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, once played at ECU. McKillop played at Chaminade High in New York City and was good enough to get a basketball grant at ECU.

Although McKillop isn't listed among ECU's all-time letterwinners in the basketball media guide, Jody Jones of ECU's media relations department confirmed that McKillop played in 23 games for the Pirates during the 1968-69 season. He averaged 1.1 points, making 14 of 18 free throws and six of 15 field goal attempts.

The last game that season for Coach Tom Quinn's ECU club was a 102-76 loss to Davidson in the Southern Conference tournament championship in the old Charlotte Coliseum, an experience that would impact McKillop's future. That Davidson club went on to lose by two points to North Carolina in a regional final, the same margin by which eventual champion Kansas prevailed over the Wildcats in a regional final this season.

Honesickness was the factor cited for McKillop's transfer to Hofstra for the remainder of his college career. He gave the NBA a shot but was cut by a Philadelphia 76ers team that went 9-72 that season. After a stint as a successful high school coach on Long Island, McKillop was offered assistant coaching positions at both Penn and Davidson in 1978.

In making that choice, McKillop recalled how Wildcat fans had celebrated the Southern Conference championship in his last game for ECU. He visited the Davidson campus and was impressed. He chose to be an assistant to Eddie Biedenbach at Davidson. The decision didn't seem to be a good one at the time as Davidson went 8-19 and Penn made the Final Four.

After one year as an assistant at Davidson, McKillop returned to high school coaching at Long Island Lutheran and won five state championships with players that included Southern Methodist coach Matt Doherty.

Lefty Driesell was Davidson's coach in that 1969 Southern Conference final – McKillop's last game for the Pirates. Holland was on the Davidson bench at the time – a fifth-year assistant to Driesell. Holland was promoted to head coach of the Wildcats the following season when Driesell was hired at Maryland.

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04/24/2008 02:27:05 AM


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