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East Carolina is off to the best start of the Jeff Lebo era at 11-4.
The notable start comes despite departures and injuries that have left
Lebo with just a pair of big men.
Now the Pirates gear up for the start of Conference USA play after a
little rest. Lebo and company eagerly await the Saturday night matchup
at home with Old Dominion to tip-off league action.
“We do look forward to it,” said Lebo. “It’s a good time to have a
little break. I gave them a couple of days off. It’s really a tough time
of the year to have off days because we are not in school though.”
Despite the double digit number of wins, Lebo knows what lies ahead. His
Pirates will win if they shoot the basketball well.
He also knows there is plenty of improvement to be found in many areas.
“We will use this week to get better,” Lebo explained. “We’ll use the
first part of the week to get better at what we need to do and then
we’ll concentrate on ODU during the second half of the week.”
Old Dominion comes to town at just 6-9 on the season but has a couple of
key wins over former Colonial Athletic Association rivals UNC-Wilmington
and George Mason. The Seahawks
beat East Carolina in Greenville so the Pirates know
they’ll be tested.
“This is a good Old Dominion team that is coming off a big win at home
against George Mason,” said Lebo. “They have a tradition in basketball.
It’s a big game for them, their first in Conference USA. And it’s a big
game for us as well.”
East Carolina has been led offensively by senior guard Akeem Richmond.
Richmond tied his school and C-USA record with 10 three-pointers in
Thursday night’s win over Campbell.
Richmond knows firsthand how play intensifies when league play begins.
“We definitely have to turn it up a few notches for conference play,”
said Richmond. “It’s always a lot more physical for sure. We aren’t
playing against teams like Fayetteville State and Campbell. Every team
will provide a very tough matchup.
"We have to come ready to
work every single day at practice to prepare.”
The Pirates know they are limited down low. This team has pretty much
taken the lack of size as a rallying point.
“We can’t get a new big man at this stage,” said Lebo. “Rebounding is
going to be an issue for us all year. Offensively, we have done a good
job getting the right guy to shoot the basketball. On the defensive end,
with our lack of size foul trouble, rebounding will always be a
ECU star freshman Brandon Stith will battle his father’s current
employer when ODU comes to town. Bryant Stith, the fifth all-time
leading scorer in the ACC while at Virginia, is on the coaching staff
with first year Monarchs Coach Jeff Jones.
“Yes it’s pretty big,” said Brandon when asked about the matchup against
Dad. “It’s a fun competition between me and him. We have a good time
with it, saying who’s going to help their team out the most.”
Brandon’s abilities on the hardwood are much different than his Dad’s
“We have a similar game in some areas but my Dad’s vertical was about 20
inches more than mine is,” Brandon explained.
Brandon smiled when I asked him if he had seen his Dad play on video
tape or on YouTube.
“I have seen some of his game film and he was pretty good,” he said
laughing. “He didn’t have YouTube back then but he will drag out the
video cassettes and so I have seen plenty of his highlights for sure.”
Brandon hopes to make some highlights of his own as the Pirates open
league play on Saturday night.