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View from the East
Thursday, May 23, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

ECU reaching for talent parity in C-USA hoops

©2002 Bonesville.net

Herring set to emerge

Jason Herring has made a rather unspectacular entry into the East Carolina basketball program but his presence is another plus as Coach Bill Herrion works to make the Pirates more competitive in Conference USA.

As an academic non-qualifier enrolled at ECU last school year, Herring needed to pass 24 credit hours to be placed on a basketball scholarship.

“He’s done that,” Herrion said Wednesday. “We fully expect him to be eligible once fall rolls around.”

In effect, Herring, a 6-foot-9 forward from Brooklyn, NY, joins a recruiting class that includes freshman forward Corey Rouse from Kinston, freshman guard Belton Rivers from Atlanta, and junior college transfer guards Luke Mackay and Derrick Wiley.

“What Jason is essentially is a combination forward,” Herrion said. “He’s a kid who can play a couple of different positions. He’s got some versatility to his game. He’s athletic. He can run. He’s a guy who can put the ball on the floor for somebody his size. ... He can play with his back to the basket or step out and play on the floor.”

Herring averaged about 18 points and 10 rebounds for Philadelphia Lutheran in his last competitive season in 2000-01 before sitting out while working on his academics in Greenville last year.

The fact that Herring has missed a season gives Herrion a little concern.

“I’ve got to hold a little bit of reservation,” Herrion said. “He sat out a year so you don’t know.”

Jonathan Moore followed a similar course into the Pirates program. Although Moore had some high-scoring games, he was plagued at times by inconsistency.

The big thing about this year’s recruiting class is that it gets ECU closer to the talent level in C-USA.

“Slowly but surely we’re getting more athletic with each class,” said Herrion, who enters his fourth season at the Pirates’ helm next November.

More athletes means more options in terms of styles of play — and the players on hand are working on developing more well-rounded games.

“You look at Gabriel Mikulas,” Herrion said. “His freshman year in the CAA, he could get away with playing with his back to the basket. Now he’s been in C-USA for a year and what we have to do with all of our frontcourt kids — they’ve got to be more versatile. He’s got to expand his game.

“You don’t see him everyday in practice but he can face the basket from 15 to 17 feet and do things. He can do it but he’s got to get more confident in doing it. Everybody in Conference USA has got big frontcourt players. That’s why we played so much zone, to keep our big men on the floor, to match up physically and be able to rebound in this league.”

The summer may be considered the offseason, but there’s very little downtime for any of the ECU teams in terms of player development.

“This is a big summer for these kids to get stronger physically,” Herrion said.

Moussa Badiane is a case in point. The 6-foot-10, 215-pounder, who set a single season ECU record for blocked shots, needs more strength to battle on the boards effectively. He also needs to refine his low post offense.

He’s headed in the right direction, adding 40 pounds to his bench press during his first year in Greenville, according to Herrion.

“I don’t know if he’s ever going to blow up, because he’s so wiry,” Herrion said. “But he’s got to keep pounding away with the weights. He’s diligent. He wants to get stronger. He’s got to get stronger physically to play good post offense.”

Wiley, at 6-4, is projected as a versatile scorer with C-USA-level athleticism.

Mackay can play either guard and could provide some needed outside shooting.

Rouse is another wing forward who needs to get in the weight room to get ready for C-USA combat.

Rivers has big-time potential.

“I think we’re putting some pieces together,” Herrion said.

Offense — three-pointers and slam dunks — is often what brings fans out of their seats in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum, but the Pirates coach is excited about expanding his team’s defensive capabilities as well next season.

“We’re getting quicker and we’re getting longer and those are things we need to be able to compete in this league,” he said. “At times we’ve had to play three guards, but we’re starting to get some options now.”

ECU’s top scorer and rebounder last season, Erroyl Bing, who has played big forward, also will be encouraged to develop his perimeter play.

Schedule developing

Two Big East Conference teams will likely be the highlight of ECU’s non-conference schedule in basketball next season.

The Pirates have been talking about a trip to Providence in 2002-03. The Friars will have a freshman frontcourt player from Kinston, Herbert Hill, and if terms are agreed on, would play in Greenville the following season (2003-04).

Virginia Tech is scheduled to play in Greenville.

College of Charleston, where Herrion’s brother, Tom, a former assistant to Pete Gillen at Virginia, has succeeded John Kresse, is a possibility for future games but probably not in the immediately.

“Tommy needs to get his feet on the ground and get established,” Herrion said. “I need to see what kind of coach he is. After that we’ll talk about it. I’d like to play in South Carolina. We have a lot of alumni there.”

ECU will return a game to Middle Tennessee, which came to Greenville last year.

There is a home game with William & Mary, which is part of the contract that brought the Tribe to ECU for a football game last season.

“I want to continue to play some teams in the CAA,” Herrion said.

ECU will also return a game to Old Dominion of the CAA next season.

Also being discussed is the possibility of a home and home series with Radford, which signed Travis Holcombe-Faye’s younger brother, Whit, from state 4-A champion Winston-Salem Reynolds. The Pirates would visit the Highlanders in 2002-03 and Radford would visit ECU the following season.

ECU may also schedule Gardner Webb, a formidable Division I independent last season.

“Conference USA allows us to schedule two non-Division I teams and we may do that,” Herrion said. “People don’t realize how difficult it is to get home games.”

Declaring

Six Conference USA players declared for early entry into the NBA draft, including 6-9 freshman Brandon Bender from Louisville, 6-4 sophomore Kevin Gaines from Houston, 6-11 sophomore Muhammad Lasege of Louisville, 6-8 junior Chris Massie of Memphis, 6-3 freshman Dajuan Wagner from Memphis and 6-8 junior George Williams of Houston.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 12:59:00 AM
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