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Pirates ready for Minges doubleheader

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East Carolina's head coach Joe Dooley during practice on Oct. 11, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

New coaches and new graphics inside Minges Coliseum will help East Carolina ring in a new basketball season.

Opening night of college basketball will feature ECU hosting a women’s-men’s doubleheader in Minges Coliseum. Interim coach Chad Killinger and the experienced Pirate women’s team will tip off against Maryland-Eastern Shore at 5:30 p.m., followed by the men playing Delaware State at approximately 7:45 p.m.

ECU’s young men’s team is re-energized and seeking a winning season under coach Joe Dooley, who left a successful Florida Gulf Coast program in April for his second stint with the Pirates after posting a 57-52 record at ECU from 1995-99.

“This is what everybody has been waiting for and we have a new head coach and new style of play and new enthusiasm,” said starting guard Isaac Fleming, who is the team’s only senior scholarship player. “It’s exciting for (the women’s team too) and it’s fun watching them play and knowing everything they have already been through this season. We are behind them 100 percent.”

Fleming and freshman forward Jayden Gardner have been among ECU’s most consistent preseason performers, but injuries have made it difficult to establish a set lineup. Rotations and playing time will remain fluid, Dooley said.

“It’s a day-by-day trial and the depth chart is minute-by-minute,” the coach joked before Monday’s practice. “You could be on the (first team) at 7:05 p.m. and then on (second team) by 7:07. We do have a couple ideas with at least two or three of them and it’s still an ongoing competition with others and some of that is due to health. Guys haven’t been out here practicing, so they are not in rhythm yet.”

Dooley pointed out that one of Delaware State’s best players is 6-foot-3 guard Saleik Edwards, a Winterville native who began his collegiate career at Brunswick Community College after averaging 14.5 points per game as a senior at South Central High School. The Hornets went 4-28 last season and they also have a new coach and revamped roster.

The Pirates went 37-57 the last three seasons combined. The best record during that span was 15-18 for the 2016-17 campaign.

“We want to play with a competitive spirit and that’s the most important deal,” Dooley said of opening night. “From an aspect of playing together, we want to start building this deal.”

Women’s opener

A new era for East Carolina’s women’s basketball begins for Killinger and the Pirates against Maryland-Eastern Shore.

Heather Macy, who is the program’s all-time winningest coach, resigned on Oct. 17 amid an internal review led by the ECU athletics’ office of compliance. Killinger, a longtime junior college head coach who joined the Pirates’ staff in June, took over and has a roster that is plenty experienced.

ECU returns proven guards Lashonda Monk, Alex Frazier and last year’s leading scorer Ariyana Williams. The frontcourt features steady junior Dominique Claytor, along with senior traditional post players Salita Greene and Destiny Campbell.

“I think we’ll have a lot of balance (scoring), but I think it will be just a game-by-game thing,” Killinger said. “There is going to be games where because of what teams do defensively, our people are going to be able to get shots and that should change from game to game. We’ll try to exploit what we can.”

The team’s lone freshman is 6-foot-3 Tiara Chambers.

The Pirates beat Eastern Shore, 64-54, a season ago, getting a big game from Campbell, who is 6-1. She had 14 points with three blocks, four rebounds and two steals in the home victory.

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

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