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Fleming bringing winning, vibrant personality

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ECU's Isaac Fleming (0) drives the lane against Campbell's Damontez Oliver (1) on Dec. 4 in Minges Coliseum.

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

When the basketball season began, there were more holes in East Carolina’s roster than there were viable players to fill them, and the Pirates’ dreadful 2-4 start reflected that.

Head coach Jeff Lebo resigned amid that unprecedented low, and with him out an even bigger piece of the team’s identity was gone.

That low point served as a springboard, however, and the Pirates’ three-game win streak has come with a new personality behind interim coach Michael Perry. Driving a good deal of that newness, and driving home a handful of recent clutch shots, is junior transfer guard Isaac Fleming.

He is a dominant new voice on the team, as evidenced by the time he already has spent behind the microphone during ECU postgame news conferences. On the floor, he is a relentless pursuer of the rim, serving as the team’s engine in consecutive come-from-behind wins.

The voice has brought a little competitive swagger, a little fire and even some humor to that mic when called upon to sum up games, even walking back senior teammate B.J. Tyson’s comment about trying to “win a national championship” after they came back to beat Campbell last Monday. 

“As a team, you’re supposed to come in thinking you can win a national championship, and just having that hunger and dedication, but our main goal is to finish in the top of the American (Athletic Conference) and go for that American championship and just surprise a lot of people,” Fleming said.

The Wilmington, Del., native poured in a team-best 19 points and dished off four assists in the Pirates’ 69-66 win over the Camels. Two nights before that, it was 17 points and four assists in a win over Delaware State and in the team’s overtime thriller against UNCW, Fleming scorched the Seahawks for 21 points.

His season-high was 23 against North Carolina A&T, and he said finding his scoring touch after a required year off following his transfer from Hawaii was simply about letting his athleticism take charge.

“I was just really not going out there thinking, and I feel like that’s what I did the first couple of games,” Fleming said of bursting out of his early-season slump. “Being out for a year, it was really just a slow start. Really, it’s the whole mental thing. My whole approach to the game now is just go out there and be you. Don’t overthink it and things will happen for you.”

Fleming has seemingly adopted the philosophy of his new coach when it comes to style of play and tempo. Both said it played a critical role in upending the Camels after trailing by as many as 17 in the second half.

“It was really us slowing down and playing out our pace, not letting them dictate where we were going to go,” said Fleming, who has not hit a 3-pointer in his last three games but instead has done his damage off the dribble. “We basically told ourselves we’re the better team and we shouldn’t be turning the ball over to these guys.”

The Pirates have needed big shots in big moments to help reverse their early fortunes, and even though he has not been a deep threat, it has often been Fleming driving the lane in game-changing moments.

“He’s been clutch, man,” Perry said. “I think it was the Cleveland State game, he had eight points in like 2 minutes. He’s a winner and it’s reflected in his play out there.”

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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