College Sports in the Carolinas
from the 'ville
October 6, 2005
By Al Myatt
Hoops recruit Blair proven
Gabe Blair is excited about joining the
basketball program at East Carolina and Pirate fans should be excited as
The 6-foot-8 recruit from Hope Christian in
Kings Mountain, NC, recently became the second high school senior to commit
to ECU in the current recruiting class.
That followed Blair's strong summer on the AAU
Blair more than held his own in AAU
competition against teams featuring 6-8 Thaddeus Young of Memphis and 6-9
Brandan Wright of Nashville, TN, both of whom are rated as 5-star prospects.
Young and Wright are both in the top five on rivals.com's top 150 players in
the 2006 high school class.
Blair's AAU team topped Stevens' team as Blair
limited Stevens to 12 points this past summer. Blair's team lost to Wright's
team, although Blair had 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Blair's summer exploits generated recruiting
interest from Colorado State, St. Bonaventure, Massachusetts, Tennessee and
Virginia. His first recruiting visit was to Greenville. He subsequently took
a trip to Colorado State but canceled the remainder of his visits after
realizing he wanted to join Coach Ricky Stokes' building effort.
"I like the coaching staff, I like the players
and I think I can make an immediate impact," Blair said Wednesday. " ... I
like the campus, the workout facilities and I like the gym. I could see
myself being there and being productive."
Rod Seaford coached Blair's Charlotte Royals
AAU team. In his 24 years in AAU, Seaford has coached players such as former
North Carolina standouts Antwan Jamison and Rashad McCants, as well as
current Wake Forest player Justin Gray. Seaford will transition into the
prep ranks to guide the independent Hope team this season.
Hope's point guard, Devon Seaford, is the
coach's son. He has committed to Lipscomb, a Division I program in the
Atlantic Sun Conference.
ECU fans in the Greenville area will have a
chance to see Blair early in the basketball season. His team will be on
display Nov. 18-19 in doubleheaders at Terra Ceia Academy in Beaufort
County. Hope will play at 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 18, a Friday, and at 3:30 p.m.
the following day. Seaford said Norfolk Christian and Northeast Academy are
also involved in the doubleheader.
"Except for Gabe and my son, everybody else is
playing football, so I don't know how much of an opportunity we will have
had to practice before we play at Terra Ceia," Seaford said.
Blair's team is also scheduled to play Charis
Prep in Goldsboro on Feb. 3 at a site to be announced. Hope will play in the
National Association of Christian Athletes Tournament in Dayton, TN, in
Seaford said Blair is a "face the basket
player," a forward capable of connecting from behind the arc. He's a good
shot blocker on the defensive end.
"He's a good fit for East Carolina, I think,"
Seaford said. "He needs to work on his ball handling and, like a lot of high
school kids, he needs to get stronger."
Blair weighs 216 pounds. He joins 6-8 John
Fields, who played last season at Fayetteville (NC) Academy, as current ECU
commitments. Fields will play this season at Fayetteville Jack Britt High.
Blair has seen his future ECU teammate in AAU
"He's a long shot blocker," Blair said of
Rice no cupcake
Look beyond the 0-3 record that new Conference
USA member Rice will bring to ECU on Saturday night and one sees trips to
UCLA, Texas and UAB. That gauntlet has earned the Owls the distinction of a
No. 1 ranking in terms of schedule strength from Jeff Sagarin of USA Today.
"I don't think you look at their record right
now," said ECU coach Skip Holtz. "The combined record for the teams they've
played is 11-1."
Rice has been on the road more than Charles
Kuralt. Because of hurricanes the Owls won't play a game at home in Rice
Stadium, site of Super Bowl VIII, until Saturday, Oct. 15. A game with Navy,
originally scheduled for Sept. 24, had to be moved to Oct. 22.
The Owls are coached by Ken Hatfield, who
guided Clemson to an ACC title in 1991. Hatfield has an interesting history.
He was a vital member of Arkansas' national championship team in 1964,
returning a punt 81 yards for a touchdown in a key 14-13 win over Texas that
He was offensive coordinator for Bill Parcells
at the Air Force Academy in 1978, taking the head job for the Falcons when
Parcells went to the pros. His 1983 Air Force team beat Notre Dame.
He had a 55-17-1 record as head coach at his
Hatfield's Owls will bring a spread option
attack to Greenville and they traditionally run the ball extremely well. His
last 18 teams have finished in the top 20 nationally in rushing offense. The
2004 Owls led the nation in rushing yardage at 306.5 yards per game.
"I don't think there's anything we can show
him defensively that he hasn't seen," Holtz said in regard to Hatfield's
experience. "If you show him something different, they just move to the next
phase of their offense. ... They are an offense that runs every option known
to man. They have a couple of extremely fast tailbacks."
Assignment football is a phrase frequently
used in dealing with an option attack, such as Army has presented the
Pirates in recent years.
"When you play an option team, they take your
aggressiveness away," Holtz said. "Most teams are taught to run in packs to
But the option forces defenses to fight their
instincts and respect multiple points of attack.
"We will practice without a football some this
week," Holtz said. "When you practice without the football, somebody has
always got to tackle the dive, somebody has always got to tackle the
quarterback and you've always got to tackle the pitch. You've got to make
sure everybody is on their man."
Another factor in preparing for Rice is the
difficulty in getting the scout team to execute an option offense smoothly.
"It's hard to simulate with the scout team the
speed it's going to come at our defense," Holtz said.
The ECU offense no doubt has been practicing
with the football after getting a lesson in the value of maintaining
possession in that
33-7 loss to Southern Miss last week. Five turnovers were
a huge factor in the loss.
"Turnovers and penalties," Hatfield said.
"Whoever has the least of those combined usually wins the game."
An early lead for the Pirates could put Rice
in a difficult position.
"Not many people stop them," Holtz said.
"Teams have gotten up on them early to force them to get big chunks of
yardage in the air. Their offense is not a comeback kind of offense. The
scary part for us is starting fast has not been our M.O. (method of
A bruised kidney sustained in the second half
of the Southern Miss game has kept ECU strong safety Zach Baker from
practicing this week. It was an unusual injury. Baker was blindsided by a
Golden Eagle blocker and fell awkwardly with his own elbow hitting him in
the abdomen, resulting in the bruise. He is scheduled to be examined today.
Rice has announced that Owls senior defensive
end Rob Daniel, who started the first three games, will not make the trip to
Greenville because of a right shoulder injury.
Best wishes for Coach Dye
The announcement that Coach Pat Dye would not
be able to take part in ECU's 2005 hall of fame inductions was
disappointing, but the first response should be prayers that he recovers
quickly from the
surgical complications that will keep him from coming to
the Rice game.
From his All American days at Georgia, to
compiling a 48-18-1 record at ECU, to leading Auburn to four straight wins
over rival Alabama, Dye has always been a big time guy.
We will look forward to his induction in 2006.
Terry Holland has great confidence in Ricky
Stokes' recruiting abilities and notes that the first-year Pirate basketball
coach has a strong supporting cast in addition to other members of an
impressive ECU coaching staff.
"As good as Ricky is, his wife, Karen, is a
superstar and ace recruiter in her own right," Holland said. "And daughter,
Sidney, is becoming just as good. It is a TEAM effort."
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