White gets back in the groove
By Tony Castleberry
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
East Carolina senior Caleb White broke out of a prolonged shooting slump on Saturday against Tulane, helping the Pirates get a win in the first of a stretch of favorable matchups in the regular season's final month.
White's 20 points in the 74-65 victory in Minges Coliseum led all players and marked the first time the 6-foot-7 forward has scored that many since a 20-point outing against N.C. Central on Dec. 3. His well-documented struggles in American Athletic Conference play are noteworthy, not just because of the remarkable numbers, but also because White has been one of ECU's most accurate shooters during his career, climbing into the top six on the school's career scoring and 3-pointers made lists.
He entered the Tulane game shooting 28.4 percent (25-of-88) from the field and just 17.0 percent (9-of-53) from beyond the arc, but went 5-of-11 from the field, 3-of-7 from long range and 7-of-8 from the free throw line in the win over the Green Wave. While it is only one game, it could do wonders for White, who admitted he has been second-guessing himself on the court during his rough patch.
"It messes with your confidence a lot," said White, whose three 3-pointers on Saturday moved him into second place behind Akeem Richmond on the ECU career list with 230. "When you're not confident out there and you're not confident in yourself, you're not really going to do well.
"It's about just staying the course, staying in (the gym) working with (Pirate assistant) coach (Mike) Netti and all of them and just trying to find confidence."
East Carolina head coach Jeff Lebo, who is recovering from Jan. 16 hip surgery and has missed the last five games, tried to help White's confidence by showing up to practices and reminding the Buckingham, Va., native of what has made him one of ECU's most dependable and productive scorers.
The importance of the gesture was not lost on White.
"(Lebo) just talked to me and told me he was rooting for me," White said. "Told me that I worked the hardest and that I was one of the best shooters that he's ever had and one of the best players he's ever had. ... He was in my corner and told me I could do it. I thought on it a lot, and it paid off (Saturday)."
After taking out a Tulane team that has only four wins this season, the Pirates (11-13, 3-8 American) get a week off before playing at South Florida on Saturday. USF (6-16), which ECU beat 60-49 in the AAC opener on Dec. 28, is 0-11 in conference.
After that, the Pirates host Temple (13-11, 4-7) and Central Florida (15-8, 6-5) before playing two teams — Tulane (4-19, 1-10) and Tulsa (12-10, 6-4) — on the road that it already has beaten at home.
East Carolina then gets Connecticut at home and a game at Houston in March before the AAC tournament March 9-12. Interim coach Michael Perry is not looking that far ahead, but he is hoping his team will take its performance against Tulane, in which it hit a season-high 12 3-pointers, to heart and build on it.
"It's obviously very inspiring, but more than anything, it is encouraging for guys to actually work harder," Perry said. "We're looking forward to the guys putting more time in. I just believe when you're not shooting the ball well, you need to get in the gym and put more time in."
Contact Tony Castleberry at email@example.com, 252-329-9591 and follow @tcastleberrygdr on Twitter.