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Don't miss Al Myatt's profile of ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004 Bonesville Magazine.

View from the East
Monday, December 27, 2004

By Al Myatt

Attrition compounds early season struggles

Bonesville Magazine

• PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact

• Recruit Profiles
• Rookie Books
• Tracking the Classes
• Florida Pipeline
• NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again


• STEVE BALLARD: New Leader Takes Charge

• SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door

• KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams

• BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate


East Carolina is a little thin in the frontcourt and not just because of the slender build of the Pirates' premier post player, Moussa Badiane.

In what has become a recurring theme for ECU, another player has left the building.

This time, it's 6-foot-10, 230-pound freshman Charles Bronson, whose struggles academically precluded him playing second semester this season.

Coach Bill Herrion said a decision was made in concert with athletics director Terry Holland and senior associate AD Nick Floyd that Bronson personally would best be served by enrolling at a junior college.

Herrion emphasized that Bronson's shortcomings in the classroom were not the result of lack of effort or a poor attitude.

"He's a good kid," said the Pirates coach, "and we wish him the best. Hopefully he can get in a situation where he will have an opportunity to get a degree."

But Herrion said it was probably a longshot that Bronson would return to ECU.

When Herrion and staff recruited Bronson out of Philadelphia Lutheran, where he averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds last season for a 29-5 team, he was projected as someone who could take some of the inside scoring burden off of the defensively-gifted but offensively-developing Badiane.

Herrion's elbow may be sore from waving good-bye to players who would have given the Pirates a much different personnel mix.

Had things gone as planned, the Pirates coach could be working with a frontcourt rotation that included 6-8 Jason Herring and 6-8 Keith Foster. A knee injury in a car accident ended Herring's Pirate career before it got started and Foster apparently was another academic casualty.

Add the loss of part-time starting perimeter players Frank Robinson and Belton Rivers, who each decided to transfer after last season, and it's remarkable that the Pirates are 4-6 with some quality wins and several competitive losses.

Herrion has been coaching a number of his prime time performers about as long as they've had their driver's licenses.

"We're a young basketball team and we've played an extremely challenging non-conference schedule," Herrion said.

The situation in which ECU finds itself going into a 7 p.m. game on Wednesday at Clemson isn't without its upsides. Corey Rouse, a 6-8 junior, has stepped up to average a team-high 9.5 rebounds. That's a major contribution for a player who had not started a game before this season.

More good news includes a projected return of freshman guard Marvin Kilgore, who missed the last two games as a result of a coaching decision. Kilgore had to complete some academic work in a class before he could resume playing, a precedent Herrion set during point guard Travis Holcomb-Faye's senior season in 2002-03.

The way things have worked out has provided ample on the job training opportunities for freshmen such as Tom Hammonds, Jr., Josh King, Jonathan Hart and even, to an extent, walk-on Taylor Gagnon.

"Where we've struggled is with lack of leadership and finding a go-to guy in tough situations," Herrion said.

Leading scorer Mike Cook, just a sophomore who wasn't a starter himself at Christmas last season, was supposed to be that guy, but Cook has made just 35.3 percent of his shot attempts despite a team-best 16.0 scoring average.

Herrion gave players time off for the holidays after a 57-53 loss to South Carolina in Mobile, Ala., a week ago. The Gamecocks were coming off a 4-point setback of their own, at Kansas, which possibly says something about the Pirates' potential as they seek to snap an 0-48 record against ACC opponents.

Herrion planned to practice on Sunday but it was not known how the winter weather may have affected players' travel as they were scheduled to return to campus. Still, Herrion valued the break.

"We needed it," Herrion said. "We've got a lot of young kids trying to adjust to college life and the college game who have never been away from home for an extended time. It was good to let them get back home to their families for a few days."

Herrion used the downtime for some evaluating. His club is doing some things very well. ECU outrebounded South Carolina 45-31 and limited the Gamecocks to 36 percent field goal shooting, including 1 of 14 behind the arc.

"We may change a few things." he said. "We're struggling a little bit getting the ball in the basket. We may press a little more defensively to push the tempo and create some easier baskets."

The Pirates have been 8-2 before entering Conference USA the last two seasons. Obviously, this season's record won't be as impressive when South Florida comes to Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on Jan. 5.

But Herrion did some math that puts the current non-league ledger in perspective.

"The combined record of our opponents this season is about 69-23," he said. "Last year at this time it was about 28-48. ... There are two schools of thought. One is you schedule tough to prepare for the conference schedule."

The other is that you schedule wins.

ECU is obviously going the tougher route this season and without many of the players Herrion had once counted on as contributors.


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02/23/2007 12:47:06 AM

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