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The Bradsher Beat
Friday, November 17, 2006

By Bethany Bradsher

Can ECU hoops construct a parallel universe?

Just as new stars have made an impact for East Carolina on the gridiron, Pirates of the hardwood looking for fresh talents to step up and meet the challenge

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It’s that fleeting time of year for college sports fans, when the gridiron converges with the hardwood and fans of revenue sports can take in a Hail Mary pass by afternoon and a fast break in the evening.

And so, this Saturday, the football Pirates will play in Houston just before the basketball version tips off in Greensboro. Andy Jones of the ISP Sports Network will fill in on the play-by-play for the basketball contest, since even Voice of the Pirates Jeff Charles isn’t smooth enough to get from Texas to North Carolina in 30 minutes.

In the spirit of this two-headed sports spectacle, I have found some heretofore-undiscovered parallels between East Carolina’s football standouts and some of the players who are breaking in the 2006-’07 basketball season.

Since the football team is enjoying a wave of success unfamiliar to fans in in recent years, perhaps the basketball players can parlay the accomplishments of their football counterparts into a campaign marked by similarly pleasant surprises.

My selections for the players best suited to build a bridge between Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and Minges Coliseum are:

  • Football’s Terence Campbell and basketball’s Gabe Blair. Their obvious common thread is their birthday, March 4. But for these two big men, the likenesses could extend even further if Blair has the kind of breakout season being enjoyed by Campbell.

    A redshirt freshman from Maxton, Campbell made his 10th consecutive start Saturday against Marshall. The 6-foot-5, 332-pound Campbell had a standout performance against Southern Miss, recording three knockdowns and making the key block on James Pinkney’s 2-yard touchdown run that sent the game into overtime.

    Blair, a true freshman from Charlotte, is 6-foot-8 and 205 pounds, and he is expected to contend for a starting forward job this season. He averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks as a senior at Hope Christian in Gastonia, and in the Pirates’ overtime loss to Richmond this week he scored 10 points and pulled down 15 rebounds, the most boards recorded by an ECU freshman in six years.

  • Football’s Brandon Fractious and basketball’s Darrell Jenkins. These two share a cross-country trek from their junior college to East Carolina, and each journey has proved worthwhile for their respective Pirates teams.

    A senior running back who transferred to ECU from Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, Fractious has been the backbone of the Pirate rushing attack lately, averaging 50 yards a game on the ground. His best effort came against Central Florida, when he rushed for 128 yards and one touchdown.

    The College of Southern Idaho was the early-college proving ground for Jenkins, a junior guard originally from Marietta, GA. Jenkins burst onto the scene at the purple-gold game in October, scoring a team-high 19 points — including 15 from the three-point line — for the gold team. In the season opener against Morgan State, Jenkins led all scorers with 22 points and 12 rebounds.

  • Football’s Jerek Hewett and basketball’s James Dillard. Former teammates on the ECU track team, both are using their explosive speed to serve their teams as role players.

    Hewett started his Pirate career as a running back but moved to the defensive backfield during the offseason. His greatest impact has been on special teams, where he ranks second on the team with kickoff return yards with 113. As a track athlete, Hewett was part of ECU’s 4X100 relay team that advanced to the NCAA Track and Field Championships.

    Dillard, who is also a sprinter and came to ECU last year on a track scholarship, averaged 16.4 points a game during his senior year at Apex High School, and he is expected to lend size and depth to the guard position for the Pirates, head coach Ricky Stokes told the media in July.

    “He's about 6-foot-5 and gives us a size that we didn't have,” Stokes said. “We have guys that are 6-3 and below and have guys probably 6-7, 6-8 and bigger, but we don't have really that guy in the in-between size. I think he'll be able to provide that, along with some athleticism that should help us within Conference USA.”

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02/23/2007 01:13:26 AM

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