Pirates set to begin hoops season|ECU’s Young is still nursing knee

Published 5:11 am Friday, November 12, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Brian@wdnweb.com, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE – The Pirates basketball team ended last season with a 10-21 (4-12) record, which has enough to end coach Mack McCarthy’s time with the Pirates.
McCarthy guided East Carolina for three years, and while his resume includes leading the team to its first-ever win over an ACC team when it knocked off N.C. State in 2007, his 34-56 overall record was not enough currency to buy him a fourth year.
The Pirates will tip-off the season tonight at home against Erskine (Div. II) and have not had a winning season since the 1996-97 season when they were still a member of the Colonial Athletic Conference and coached by Joe Dooley.
Rumor had it that East Carolina looked to bring back Dooley to lead this team back to winning ways, however, Dooley remained at Kansas.
Instead, the of job guiding the Pirates toward respectability falls on former Tar Heel Jeff Lebo, who is entering his 13th season as a head coach and brings a career 211-156 record to Greenville.
East Carolina athletic director Terry Holland dubbed Lebo, who played under legendary coach Dean Smith, as a “program turner” upon his hiring after he had helped resurrect teams such as Tennessee Tech, Chattanooga and Auburn, which was his last stop.
How far this program can be turned will rely heavily on how much Brock Young can turn his right knee. The all-Conference USA point guard, and ECU’s all-time assist leader, tore his meniscus a few weeks before official practice began and is still not fully recovered.
“I had an operation this morning,” Young said on Wednesday. “We drained it a little bit to take some of the pressure off of it so hopefully I will be back on Friday.”
Young, who was the team’s top scorer last year with a 15.5 points per game average, said he has had his knee drained once before and that he will hopefully not have to continue to do that procedure.
“We have to have Brock healthy,” Lebo said. “Brock has missed a lot of practice. He has been in five practices total and he has missed a lot of reps. We are a very different basketball team when he is on the floor. He has leadership, the ability to pass the basketball and he has the ability to score. He is a calming influence on the guys out there.”
When Young, who averaged a C-USA best 5.5 assists last season, is on the bench Lebo will play sophomore Corvonn Gaines. Gaines is a big 6-4, 220 pound guard, who started five games last season and showed some signs of promise.
“Corvonn Gaines has really done a nice job for us in Brock’s absence at practice,” Lebo said. “He’s a kid who didn’t play much last year till the end of the year. He is a different type of point guard than Brock, he’s got size at 6-4. He’s got some speed with the basketball and is an excellent decision maker. We would like to play those two guys together, but not having Brock in practice, Corvonn has taking a majority of his reps at the point guard position and has not been able to slide off the ball.”
Aside from Young, the Pirates will look to junior power forward Darrius Morrow, senior guard/forward Jamar Abrams (11 ppg, 4.9 rpg), senior center Chad Wynn (7.4 ppg, 5 rpg) and senior shooting guard Jontae Sherrod (9.6 ppg) to provide leadership.
Morrow, at 6-8, 255 pounds, is capable of being a force in the paint and averaged 12 points and 6.5 rebounds last season. The 6-6 Abrams is a fantastic athlete who has a nice job shot but needs to develop the rest of his game, especially his ability to beat defenders off the dribble.
Wynn is a big body who has had desperately needs to avoid foul trouble, and if he can do so may be an effective post player.
The Pirates will also be looking for a few young players to take a step up. Last season ECU got some good minutes from freshmen guards Wakefield Ellson and Erin Straughn, if they have developed during the offseason they have potential to be impact players.
Another young player who could potentially make a difference for ECU is 6-8, 195-pound freshman forward Robert Sampson. Sampson is the son of former NBA star Ralph Sampson and has a big upside to match his big frame.