Gabe Blair has concluded that
transferring from East Carolina is his best move. Superficially, it
would seem to be another blow for a program that last had a winning
season in 1996-97.
Mack McCarthy hasn't exactly had a
stroll through the park since agreeing to a five-year contract. ECU lost
a scholarship and had its weekly practice time reduced from 20 hours to
18 by the NCAA in response to the program's academic progress rate.
Blair started 29 games for the Pirates
during his sophomore season. He averaged 23.2 minutes, 7.7. points and a
team-high 6.9 rebounds.
But Blair felt he was playing out of
position at ECU. He sees himself as a power forward or a small forward.
He played the five or center spot for the Pirates.
"The thing I hate about players leaving
a program – any player – is we need stability and continuity," McCarthy
said. "Players leaving keep us from having that.
"We need it in all phases. We need it
in our coaching staff. We need it in student development. We need it in
"We need stability and continuity all
the way through the program. We need it in strength and conditioning.
There are going to be changes but we need the core of folks to be the
same and hopefully the commitment to me will initiate some of that
stability we need."
After serving a season on an interim
basis and producing an 11-19 record that included a home win over N.C.
State, McCarthy was given a five-year contract following the 2007-08
Blair became the third player to leave
the program since McCarthy's interim status was resolved. He follows
reserve guard Brandon Evans and sophomore post player John Fields, who
felt the grass would be greener at UNC Wilmington.
Following the departures of Evans and
Fields, McCarthy signed 6-foot-8 Darrius Morrow from Columbus, GA, and
6-5 Chis Turner out of Humble, TX.
Then Blair confirmed his plans to
transfer earlier this week.
"The immediate impact is that we lose a
6-8 guy who started for two years and has some experience," McCarthy
said. "It puts a big onus on Chad Wynn to get better, Daquan Joyner to
get better, on Jamar Abrams to get better and Darrius Morrow to play
"I think all four of them are capable
of doing those things."
Blair's exit frees up a scholarship but
McCarthy emphasizes the need to be judicious in bringing in another
"Again, because of the lack of
stability, we don't need to take anybody that isn't good enough to
succeed here or really wants to be here," McCarthy said. "We've got to
have that combination. We can't just go throw a scholarship offer out
there to somebody to fulfill a short term need.
"We've got to make some long term
decisions here because that's how we're going to approach this thing."
While McCarthy seeks to maximize the
talent level within the program, he feels that progress is being made in
some vital areas other than personnel.
"We've got a more solid strength and
conditioning philosophy," said the Pirates coach. "They way we travel is
optimum to success on and off the floor. We've got an outstanding staff
– two guys who have been head coaches and another guy who's going to be
a star. Another guy will be added in the near future."
It will take more than a few transfers
to curb McCarthy's enthusiasm as he goes about the process of building
the ECU hoops program.
"I'm really, really excited," he said.
"And the fans seem to be excited. Now that's got to translate into
performance. We've got to do a more consistent job on the floor. We
can't lose to Lee one night and beat N.C. State another night.
"We've got to be more consistent with
our performance. Some of that is due to talent and some of that is due
to the fact that we've never consistently won. Which comes first? You
could argue that all day."
McCarthy says the Pirate Nation needs
to accept its share of responsibility to the development of the program
in terms of their support.
"Our fans have to be consistent," he
said. "We can't have Clemson in here and not sell this place out. We've
got to make this place a great home court every night. Whether we're
playing Memphis or playing Tulane, we've got to pack this place on a
Again, there would seem to be a
question of the potential sequence of events.
"Whether we've got to win before they
come or they've got to come before we win I don't even know, but we each
have to do our part," McCarthy said. "Our fans are great. They're
enthusiastic. When we get this place filled, it's as good a homecourt as
any in the country.
"We've got to fill it regularly – just
like they did with football last year. The administration here threw
down the gauntlet, made an attractive schedule and football sold out for
the year. We've got to move in the same direction in basketball."
need to get busy
East Carolina's offense didn't measure
up in the Conference USA baseball tournament as the Pirates managed just
nine runs in three games in New Orleans. ECU (40-19) is seeded second
for a four-team regional which starts Friday at Coastal Carolina.
The Pirates, who made the NCAA
Tournament for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons, begin the
double-elimination regional in Conway, SC, at 7 p.m. on Friday against
Host Coastal (47-12), the top seed,
will play fourth-seeded Columbia (22-28) at 1 p.m. on Friday.
ECU coach Billy Godwin was looking at
the positives as he prepared the Pirates to face the Crimson Tide on the
diamond for the first time. ECU left for the regional site after
practice in Greenville on Wednesday.
"For us, it's a bus trip and it's close
enough that a lot of our fans can be there to cheer us on," Godwin said.
Although ECU's bats were too often
silent in the C-USA event last week, the Pirates did get a win over
Rice, the No. 6 national seed, and lost twice to Houston, the eventual
league tournament champion and a No. 3 seed for this weekend's regional
at Texas A&M.
All three of ECU's games in the C-USA
Tournament were decided by one run.
"We pitched and played defense the best
we had all year," Godwin said. "We didn't swing the bat as well as we
have though. ... We're going to have to play all three phases of the
game well to win."
The Pirates averaged 7.8 runs per game
and will likely face Alabama junior right-hander Austin Hyatt in their
opener. Hyatt was 4-4 with a 4.64 earned run average.
In his last start, Hyatt turned in a
complete game in a 5-2 win over Georgia, the Southeastern Conference
regular season champion. Hyatt held the Bulldogs to four hits and
retired 20 straight batters during one dominating span.