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We interrupt this most disappointing football season to talk
a little Pirate basketball.
Never before have so many Pirate fans looked forward to ECU
hoops. ACC basketball, maybe, but not East Carolina Pirate basketball.
This year things are different. The Pirate football team is
struggling. Pirate baseball just took a blow with the announcement that the
new stadium won’t be a reality until 2005.
Pirate hoops, though, is hot.
“It’s a credit to our fans,” said Pirate basketball coach
Bill Herrion. “They responded so well to our first year in Conference USA.
We’re going to need them in a big way this year too.”
Herrion has plenty of reason to be optimistic. He has added
several quality players to the roster. Now, he has a little depth, which
becomes so important later in the season.
The best of the new group is Belton Rivers, the guard out of
Atlanta. Everyone knew he was talented coming in. However, his role has
changed after a couple of weeks of practice.
“Belton looks good at the point guard position,” explained
Herrion. “We really recruited him more as a two guard, but now we think he
can be an outstanding point guard for the next four years. Travis
Holcomb-Faye is a senior, so Belton will probably take over the point full
time next season.”
The Pirates will have both Moussa Badiane and Gabriel
Mikulas from the very beginning this season. Last year, the NCAA’s red tape
cost the Pirates several early season victories, with Badiane and Mikulas
stuck watching from the bench.
“The key for us is to win some games early on,” said
Herrion. “That’s the key to a winning season. We have some very good
non-conference match-ups early in the year. We have to learn how to win on
the road as well.”
The Pirates open the season with a road game at Middle
Tennessee State, and then come back to the friendly confines of Williams
Arena for the home opener on November 24th against Ole Miss. from the SEC.
The early season slate also includes some of ECU's former
“I like playing the Colonial teams,” said Herrion. “I like
the Old Dominion trip, because we have so many ECU alumni in the Tidewater
area. I like playing (George) Mason and William & Mary this season.
“With all of the travel involved in Conference USA, I think
it’s important to play regional teams during the non-conference part of the
season. We’ll get enough frequent flyer miles in during league play, for
There are some downsides to the schedule. The first league
game is set for December 30th at home against Marquette, while the students
are on Christmas break. Marquette was one of three C-USA teams last year to
post 26 wins. The league, incidentally, was the only one in the country to
have three teams with 26 or more wins.
“Expectations are higher, but that’s okay,” Herrion said.
“The bar has been raised, but I think we’ll be a better basketball team this
year. I like this team and I think the fans will like it as well.”
The Pirates open the exhibition part of their schedule a
week from Thursday, hosting the U.S. Marine Corps. ECU then hosts EA Sports
on November 12th.