BASKETBALL: ECU leaning on young guys to step up

Published 5:47 am Tuesday, October 21, 2008

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE - Addition by subtraction? That was the feeling at East Carolina men’s basketball media day press conference on Monday.
The notable departures are a pair of promising junior post players in Gabe Blair and John Fields, as well as point guard Darrell Jenkins, who graduated and is looking to latch on to an NBDL team. Blair took his team-leading seven rebounds and seven points a night to Wichita State, while Fields and his seven points and five boards have traveled to UNC-Wilmington (whom the Pirates will be playing on the road Dec. 3).
While the statistical subtractions are tangible, the additions are a little tougher to measure.
The Pirates brought in highly regarded 6-8, 250-pound freshman power forward Darrius Morrow (who was recruited by South Carolina, Auburn and Marquette) to help fill the vacancy in the post, and also will rely heavily on redshirt sophomore Chad Wynn to play center.
But the area the Pirates really feel they improved on this season is team fellowship, as chemistry was the buzz word of the day inside the Murphy Center at East Carolina University.
Apparently some players from last year’s 11-19 team didn’t.
On Monday a few players attested to the new found chemistry, and vaguely and not so vaguely hinted that last season players’ gripes about their roles on the team became a distraction.
While no Pirate spoke about the players by name, it’s fairly safe to assume that they are now representing another university.
Wynn agreed with Hinnant.
Of course losing Fields and Blair was a big loss, but chemistry is a very underrated aspect of team sports, especially in basketball where the rosters are so small.
The Pirates have a young team, and are a work in progress. East Carolina only has two seniors on this year’s roster in Hinnant and James Legan, and 10 of the 14 roster spots are held by freshmen and sophomores. With a foundation like that, chemistry has tremendous importance.East Carolina will look to a lot of those young guns to lead the team. One in particular is sophomore point guard Brock Young. As a freshman, Young averaged five assists per game in the apprentice role to Jenkins.
Young said Jenkins helped prepared him for this year, and McCarthy said Young is ready to take over this team.
When asked about it, Young agreed with his coach.
Aside from Morrow, the Pirates have added guards Chris Kuppets, Howard Hurt and Chris Turner, as well as forwards Matt Steele and Derek O’Brien. All of which are freshman.
Of the group, Kuppets and Turner figured to have the most impact. Kuppets has been praised for his shooting ability, while McCarthy is hoping Turner turns out to be the slasher this team has so desperately needed.
When the Pirates get on the court, don’t expect too many changes from last year. East Carolina will still rely heavily on the three-ball and try to run, and while on defense they will play a lot of man.
McCarthy did say that as he sees more of his team in practice, changes will be made to adapt to his talent.
The Pirates have been promising a run-and-gun offense since Ricky Stokes was calling the shots and fans have never really seen it come to fruition, but this year the players believe it will really happen.
Legan also thinks this year will be different.
Fans will find out on Nov. 14 when the Pirates play their season opener against Coker at 7:30 p.m.