McCarthy pleased with Pirates’ additions

Published 11:18 am Friday, July 18, 2008

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — East Carolina basketball coach Mack McCarthy gave a state of the union address on Thursday, which was eerily similar to last season’s get-you-up-to-speed press conference at this time.
Last year, key players such as Japhet McNeil and Tom Hammonds transferred out of East Carolina, while this year, the Pirates will prepare for the 2008-09 season without their front court duo of John Fields (UNC-Wilmington) and Gabe Blair (Wichita State University).
The loss of their two best post players is devastating to the Pirates, who, after beating N.C. State and George Mason last year, appeared to be making some progress.
McCarthy said one the reasons for their departures was that they weren’t happy with their role in the offense.
The loss of Fields (9 ppg., 5 rpg.) and Blair (7 ppg., 7 rpg.) ot only creates an experience gap down low, it creates a huge void in the Pirates’ post defense as well.
Fields was an outstanding shot-blocker, while Blair was a rugged rebounder. While the outlook appears bleak, one person who can make a name for himself this year is Wynn.
Out of all the Pirates’ post players, Wynn was the only true back-to-the-basket player. The 6-10, 240-pound sophomore has great size, and showed flashes of potential last season.
If Wynn can improve his footwork and shooting touch around the basket, he could make fans forget about Fields and Blair rather quickly.
McCarthy said Wynn has been working hard during the off-season.
McCarthy did enlist some post help for Wynn as the Pirates signed Morrow, a 6-8, 250 PF/C from Columbia High School in Georgia. Morrow is seen primarily as a back-to-the-basket type player and will be given the opportunity to produce immediately.
McCarthy said he was also excited to have fellow new recruits Chris Kuppets (G) and Chris Turner (G).
Aside from losing Fields and Blair, the Pirates also will be without Conference USA’s leading assist man from last year, Darrell Jenkins, who exhausted his eligibility. The loss of Jenkins thrusts the leadership role upon seniors Hinnant and Leegan.
One positive factor the Pirates have in their favor this season is that they have stability at the top. Last season former head coach Ricky Stokes was stepping down, and eventually stepped out of the Pirates’ picture. The move paved the way for McCarthy to take over the program and receive a 5-year contract with a base salary of $225, 000 a year. So far he has done a decent job, the Pirates’ 11-19 record was their best in four years.
McCarthy seemed to give everyone a crack at playing time last year, and coached for the future. With only two seniors on this year’s squad, fans should expect more of the same. If East Carolina can hold on to its recruits, the Purple and Gold faithful just might get a chance to see what that future looks like.