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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Monday, August 25, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Herrion keeps chopping wood amidst swirling events


Al Myatt will be Patrick Johnson's guest tonight on Sportsline, which airs on Pirate Radio 1250 AM, 6-8 pm.

The transition of the football program under Coach John Thompson, speculation about conference affiliation and the departure of athletics director Mike Hamrick to Nevada-Las Vegas have been dominating the attention of the East Carolina sports community in recent months, but Pirate basketball coach Bill Herrion has been busy, too.

"It's been a good summer," Herrion said. "We had our camps in June and those went real well. Last year, we started a team camp. This was our second year with that and the numbers were good."

Herrion added Dino Presley to his coaching staff in late June after Richard Morgan left ECU to become associate coach at Hampton.

"Dino was on my staff the last two years I was at Drexel," Herrion said. "He's been working on the staff at Towson, outside of Baltimore. He's gotten us involved with a lot of kids in the Baltimore/Philadelphia area."

Herrion was on the road in July. He attended the Nike camp in Indianapolis, the adidas ABCD camp in New Jersey, an AAU tournament in Las Vegas and another national AAU tournament at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. ECU assistant Greg Herenda has been in Oklahoma and California keeping tabs on potential help for the Pirates on the junior college level.

"We've kind of covered the whole country," Herrion said.

Herrion's brother, Tommy, a former Virginia assistant who guided College of Charleston to a 25-8 record and the second round of the NIT in his first season with the Cougars, got married earlier this month.

Herrion has developed his plan for allocating the four scholarships he expects to have available for the 2004 incoming class. He'll be looking for another point guard, preferably with a little more size than incoming freshman Japhet McNeill, who is 5-foot-11. The Pirates will also search for a combination guard, capable of playing the point or on the wing.

"We're also probably going to sign two frontcourt guys," Herrion said. "One of those may be a junior college kid. We lose (Erroyl) Bing and (Gabriel) Mikulas, so we've got to prepare for that."

Herrion still doesn't know if incoming freshman forward Keith Foster, who helped Winston-Salem Reynolds to three straight state 4-A championships, will be available for the 2003-04 season.

"He's coming but he's not qualified right now," Herrion said. "We're appealing to see if we can put him on scholarship. It's similar to the process we went through with Corey Rouse last year. We would like for him to be able to practice even if we redshirt him this season."

The 2003-04 schedule will be released any day now. The Pirates are expected to open at home against Campbell on Sat., Nov. 22, the return of a game with the Camels in Fayetteville last season.

"We need a couple of games," Herrion said last week. "What's hard for fans to understand is that we need to get out of the business of playing home and home. Teams at the upper end of Conference USA are not going to Coastal Carolina to get a return game at home. You go on the road and you can lose to anybody.

"The upper level schools buy four, five or six games at home that will probably be wins for them. We're not in that position and it makes scheduling tougher. We're trying to get the right balance with our non-conference schedule. We may have as many as 17 home games."

Herrion is looking for improvement on last year's 12-15 record after a 7-0 start and a subsequent win over Marquette, which reached the Final Four, created a wave of optimism. The Pirates were 3-13 in Conference USA last year after going 5-11 in the league and 12-18 overall in 2001-02. ECU has yet to win a road game in C-USA and is 0-16 outside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum in two seasons in the league.

The Pirates qualified for the league tournament in their first season in C-USA but missed the event last year. A new format which takes ECU out of the tougher American Division of C-USA should help the Pirates' bid for a spot in this year's league tournament in Cincinnati.

ECU will play Charlotte, South Florida and UAB home and home in the new C-USA format. The Pirates will play every other team in the league just once with Louisville, DePaul, Memphis, TCU and Tulane scheduled to visit Greenville. The teams that ECU won't play at home this season — Cincinnati, Houston, Marquette, Saint Louis and Southern Miss — would play in Greenville the following season (2004-05) if the league's membership doesn't change.

There will be no divisions in C-USA next season. The top 12 in the league standings will make the C-USA Tournament.

"This is a big year," Herrion said. "It's year three in Conference USA and we have a lot of players back. I'll be the first to say it, 'We've got to take the next step.' "

Having fun yet?

With all the demands of preseason camp - 6:30 a.m. breakfast checks, 10 days rooming in a hotel without their cars, two-a-day practices and curfews - new coach John Thompson did his best to provide some light moments for the football team.

The Pirates took in the movie, "Seabiscuit" on the first Saturday of the preseason and there was a rookie talent show near the end of the team's stay at the City Hotel and Bistro.

"A lot of the players imitated older players," Thompson said. "They imitated some situations in practice where someone had messed up and it was pretty funny. Rookie coaches didn't have to perform. There's a lot of power in a whistle and a degree."

Thompson had a surprise for the team Wednesday evening.

"With Coach Thompson you have to expect the unexpected," said junior quarterback Desmond Robinson. "At the end of practice on Wednesday, he told us if (Cameron Broadwell) kicked three straight field goals we could go in. The first two were like 25 yards and they were good. Then the third one was good from 35 yards.

"Coach Thompson told us to go in and shower and meet back outside at 7:45 (p.m.)."

The Pirates boarded the ECU buses and went to Pulse Athletic Club to go swimming.

"I enjoyed it," Robinson said. "They had watermelon for us. The guys were showing their moves and dives and stuff. Every coach got doused in the pool."

Even Coach (J.B.) Grimes?

"Even Coach Grimes."

On Saturday night, Thompson had senior players over to his house for a catered steak and chicken meal.

Playing football is a huge commitment of time and energy but Thompson is conscious of making it fun, too.

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02/23/2007 12:39:44 AM

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