Pirates’ success may rest on how well Chad can hang

Published 7:12 am Wednesday, October 29, 2008

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — Early November signifies a chance for the people to make a difference in the direction of the nation, and this year voters hope the outcome doesn’t hinge on a hanging chad.
As November draws near the Pirate Nation is also headed for a new course, only its success may just depended on how well a Chad can hang.
East Carolina lost some building blocks during the off season, as a pair of junior big men jumped off the Pirates’ ship and set sail for a fresh start.
Fan favorite John Fields (6-9, 200) took his shot-blocking ability and nine points per game to UNC-Wilmington, while Gabe Blair (6-8, 210) took his seven rebounds a night to Wichita State.
The hole left by Fields and Blair is a large one and will take a lot to fill. However, something roughly 6-10, 250 just might do the job.
That’s the frame of East Carolina center Chad Wynn, and he is going to need every bit of it to carry the burden of the Pirates’ post game.
As a freshman last season, Wynn averaged 10 minutes per game, and in that time brought down two rebounds and three points a night.
This year, Wynn has worked hard to condition himself, and should be better adjusted to the college game.
Having his freshman year under his belt, Wynn said he feels more comfortable heading into the 2008-09 season.
Wynn does have some help, as McCarthy signed prized freshman recruit Darrius Morrow, who at 6-8, 250 should at the very least provide a presence in the paint. But it is Wynn, that is, and should be, asked to do the heavy lifting.
That may be a lot to ask out of a sophomore, but fair or not, that’s the situation that he is in.
Wynn said he is prepared for what lies ahead, and looks at the absence of Fields and Blair as an opportunity to show what he can do.
One of the hurdles Wynn feels he jumped over was getting used to banging with people his own size. As a high school star at North Atlanta Prep, going head-to-head with someone 6-10 wasn’t something that happened too often.
In limited minutes last year, Wynn did a lot of good things that flew under the radar. Wynn does an excellent job establishing position on the block, and presenting a good target for his guards to throw to, even though they didn’t always look his way.
When he did get the ball, Wynn had showed a nice hook shot when he would drop step away from the baseline and into the paint. However, he needs to add an up-and-under as well as some baseline move; whether it be another hook or a standard drop step.
Though his hooks didn’t always go in, fundamentally the move wasn’t bad, and the shooting touch should come with more practice.
Defensively, he has a lot to work on as far as court awareness and being more aggressive without fouling, but these are all things he said he has dedicated a lot of time to. Remember, he is just a sophomore.
Wynn will be asked to score in the paint more this season, but where he can really boost his points per game is with put-backs, but he has to be dedicated to rebounding to do that.
Fields and Blair played well and they will be missed, but despite having a size advantage in most games ECU was still last in Conference USA in offensive rebounding, near the bottom in defensive rebounding and dead last in rebounding margin.
For a team that featured three players over 6-8, that’s just unacceptable. So Pirate Nation shouldn’t be too worked up over their departures, don’t worry ECU can finish last in rebounding just as easy without Fields and Blair.
In fact, and this is wishful thinking, East Carolina might just be a better rebounding team without them. Too often last year the Pirates perimeter players backed off the boards because they relied on the big men to get them. Without Fields and Blair, maybe the team will feel a sense of urgency and be more active in the paint as a team.
If not, their success in the paint will hang a lot on Chad.