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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
By Brian Bailey
WNCT-TV 9 Sports Director

Brian Bailey

Countdown to league play underway


By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.


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 concern.”

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 skill set.

“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.


E-mail Brian Bailey.

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PAGE UPDATED 01/07/14 03:21 AM