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Hoops Recruiting Report
Saturday, March 9, 2002

By Thad Mumau
Special Correspondent

C-USA Boosts Pirates' Recruiting Profile


Being a member of Conference USA can only help East Carolinaís basketball program. It is definitely going to help bring better players to Greenville.

While itís not a matter of riding the coat tails of a national power like Cincinnati or other established basketball schools like Louisville, Marquette and DePaul, it is a matter of cashing in on their reputations.

Big-name coaches like the Cardinals' Rick Pitino, Cincy's Bob Huggins and John Calipari of Memphis are going to help the Piratesí recruiting, too.

How? Well, wherever those guys are coaching, the television cameras canít be far away. And the kids love to play on TV. Many prospects will choose Conference USA schools if they know they will receive a lot of exposure.

We donít have to look any farther than the Atlantic Coast Conference. Sure, Duke and North Carolina have been the giants of that league over recent years, but they can only sign so many players. Many other talented prospects choose other ACC schools simply because of the conferenceís name.

The kids want to play in the ACC. They like the exposure, but they also like the idea of playing against tough competition. During the early signing week in November, ACC schools landed 20 of the top 100 seniors in the country as ranked by Duke got five of them and Carolina three. That means a dozen went to the other seven schools in the conference.

Thatís how East Carolina can benefit in Conference USA.

Over the years, there have been many, many times when a prospect said the main reason he chose a certain school was because it was in the ACC. The kid would mention the opportunity to play in the conference before saying anything about how beautiful the campus was, how terrific the coaching staff was or how he felt about the academics.

It can be that way for ECU, and thereís nothing wrong with that.

This is not to say that Bill Herrion and his Piratesí coaching staff donít have what it takes to recruit talented basketball players. But, like other sales jobs, it always helps to have something to get a foot in the door. Conference USA will help get the door open.

Just as many young men get excited about the chance to play against Duke and UNC, so will many others salivate about the chance to play against Cincinnati and Louisville.

The good recruiters never talk about other schools or programs. They sell their own universities. They highlight athletic facilities, graduation rates, tradition or whatever else might be a strength of their particular institution and program.

The schedule can be a strong selling point as well. And when you are playing Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, Marquette, DePaul and Charlotte two times each, the schedule is going to be pretty impressive. Louisville and DePaul are not what they once were on the hardwood, but Pitino will have the Cardinals there in a hurry, and the Blue Demons have the kind of past that can help build a brighter future.

East Carolina has obviously been known as a football school. (Pirate baseball has also been very good over the years, but a lot of people donít know that.) Basketball is another story, one without consistent success.

A big reason is that ECU is buried in ACC Country, and ACC basketball has been considered the best in the land most of the time for decades. People have said there is no way the Pirates can recruit against Duke, Carolina and N.C. State.

Thatís true.

But the Bucsí coaching staff is now recruiting against Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis and Charlotte. Some very good prospects are going to play for those schools. There are many others who will play for the other Conference USA schools. East Carolina can get its share.

The thing about basketball is that one or two players can make a huge difference. A good 7-footer and a penetrating point guard who can score a little can turn a program around. Get a couple of good players and more follow to play with them.
It isnít that simple, but it isnít that far-fetched, either. Herrion has some nice tools to help him build.

There may be Division I prospects at North Carolina high schools who want to stay in the state. Because East Carolina is in Conference USA, some of those kids may head for Greenville where they can play a lot rather than sit at the end of the Carolina or State bench.

Gaining membership in Conference USA ó and proving it can compete, as it did in its first season ó will transform ECU basketball in a way that was unimaginable in the past.

Send an e-mail message to Thad Mumau.

Click here to dig into Thad Mumau's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 02:39:43 PM

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