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New players joining Pirates

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East Carolina basketball coach Joe Dooley direct a dribbling drill during workouts June 8.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The anticipated arrival of most of the freshman class for the East Carolina basketball team coincides this week with the start of the university’s second summer session of classes.

Five of the six recruits, excluding 7-foot-2 Bosnia native Milan Stakic, are slated to begin classes and workouts with the Pirates on Thursday. That includes three-star prospects Jayden Gardner from Wake Forest and 6-2 guard DeShaun Wade from Charlottesville, Va.

Gardner is a talented 6-7 forward who scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Minges Coliseum on March 3 during his Heritage team’s overtime 4-A state semifinal win over previously unbeaten South Central. Stakic, a recent commit, could be joining ECU later this summer or during the fall.

Returning ECU players already have been working out with first-year coach Joe Dooley and his staff that at this point is nearly complete, but still is missing a third full-time assistant coach.

“It will be interesting and I’m sure they will come in with eyes wide open,” Dooley said of the recruits. “The shock will hit them probably by Thursday afternoon when we get out there working.”

Joining Gardner and Stakic as a final post player in this class is 6-10 Rico Qunton from Newbern, Tenn. The guards are Wade, Tyler Foster (6-5, Durham) and Tae Hardy (6-3, Athens, Tenn.).

All six of the players are freshmen. They will be looking to mesh with the Pirates’ returners, led by guards Isaac Fleming — a rising senior — and sharpshooting Shawn Williams, and sophomore big man Dimitrije Spasojevic.

“You have an idea what they can do, but you don’t know how quickly they might retain things or how quickly they can pick things up,” said Dooley, who in his first stint with the Pirates from 1995-98 posted a 57-52 record for the best Division I winning percentage (.523) ever by an ECU coach. “It should be a good time and good six weeks to work with all of these guys.”

A team annually has 13 scholarships available. With five lettermen returning to the Pirates, Virginia Tech transfer Seth LeDay now eligible to play and six new players, one more scholarship could be awarded or given to another recruit this season. Dooley also could hold it for next year.

Fleming is ECU’s leading returning scorer at 12.5 points per game. The team finished 10-20 last season, but Williams snagged American Athletic Conference rookie of the year honors thanks to his 72-of-196 mark from 3-point range.

The addition of new players should help the Pirates as they continue to try and formulate the best plan for rebounding from recent losing seasons and while playing in an AAC led at the top by tradition-rich programs such as Cincinnati, Wichita State and Connecticut.

“We can do more things,” Dooley said of upcoming practices. “It has been good workouts, but when we get everybody here we’ll get a chance to do even more. We also could see how we want to play.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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