NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Friday, July 18, 2008
By Bethany Bradsher
McCarthy banks on young guns
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Mack McCarthy is counting down the days until
football season just like everyone else in the Pirate Nation, he said
But he’s also trying to keep his face out there
as a vivid reminder of another date: In just three months the latest version
of East Carolina Hoops will take the court for the first practice of the
The ECU head coach, in his second season at the
helm of a program that won 11 games last year, knows that football is king
around here, and he isn’t looking for empty publicity. At a press conference
designed to give his program a little July punch, he said there is truly
only one way to take up residence in a fan’s consciousness: to earn your way
“You always compete for the attention of the
public,” McCarthy said. “I’m as big a college football fan as there is in
this room. I love college football, but I coach college basketball, so we
want the attention, and we want to do things to earn the attention. We have
to do more than we did last year.”
His team had one opportunity to make an
offseason splash last week, when the Pirates were named the basketball team
with the highest GPA in Conference USA. That was a gratifying honor for a
program that has struggled with academics and retention in recent years, and
it is one indicator of the renewed discipline and work the team has adopted
“That kind of starts at the top,” McCarthy said.
“When Coach Holland got here and put the rule in that if you miss a class
you miss a game, that spoke pretty loudly. But it’s the result of a lot of
people’s effort. We stay on top of when you have papers due, or when you
have a test.
"I think it’s a credit to
a whole lot of people, but mostly to the kids themselves.”
As he charts this course,
McCarthy can move forward with the confidence that he is the captain of the
ship for a good while. The ECU Board of Trustees agreed on Thursday to give
him a five-year contract worth a total of $225,000 per year.
McCarthy and his staff
don’t get to see their players much yet because of NCAA regulations, but
when they do spend time with the group they sense a unique chemistry.
James Legan, one of only
two upperclassmen on the team, has noticed it too.
“With all of us being up
here, we’re getting to know each other a little better, and it’s definitely
helping us for the future,” Legan said.
When they’re not hitting
the books, the Pirates are hitting the weight room in an effort to silence
those who can’t see past the youth on their roster. The senior class has
only two members — Legan and Sam Hinnant — and the offseason departures of
Gabe Blair and John Fields nearly emptied the rising junior class.
The Pirates will take the
floor with eight freshmen and sophomores (the youngest team McCarthy has
ever coached), a three-point line that is a foot further away from the
basket than it was last year and a ramp-up period to intense Division I
competition that will, by necessity, last mere weeks.
“The big challenge for
this team is, can we guard people, in particular in the post, and can we
rebound the basketball,” McCarthy said. “If we can rebound and play defense,
we can really be a good basketball team. We can be better than everyone will
expect, and the preseason rankings will be thrown out the window.”
Freshman like Chris
Turner – a heavily recruited 6-foot-5 guard who last starred at a Texas prep
school called Humble Christian, won’t have the luxury afforded sophomore
point guard Brock Young, who was able to ease into his starting role in the
shadow of Darrell Jenkins. Suddenly one of the most experienced Pirates on
the roster, Young will help set the fast pace that McCarthy hopes will
define his Pirates.
“Brock had almost the
exact year we hoped for him,” McCarthy said. “The games he played well he
played more, the games he didn’t play well he didn’t have the pressure to
perform. He’s really worked hard this summer at being more of a leader on
and off the floor, and I think he’s right on schedule.”
Guard Hinnant, the other
senior on the team, said that he has been impressed with the determination
of his teammates so far this summer and he has confidence in the newcomers
to take the team further than previous squads.
“Right now everybody’s
working as hard as I’ve ever seen them work before, in the weight room, in
the classroom,” Hinnant said. “We’re working hard.”
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07/18/2008 01:40:16 AM