Pirates still in practice mode
By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
East Carolina basketball forward Jayden Gardner completed the final academic exam of his freshman fall semester on Tuesday, and now he can turn most of his attention to basketball, but that means more practices than games for him and the Pirates.
ECU (6-4) is near the middle of its oddest scheduling month of the season. The Pirates will play at Charlotte on Dec. 18 for their first game since Dec. 2. Their third and final contest of the month is against North Carolina A&T in Minges Coliseum 10 days later on Dec. 28.
The lack of games has created extra time for coaches to travel for recruiting and for the players to spend a lot of time practicing in Minges and the Smith-Williams Center.
“Practices have changed to more skill-based,” said Gardner, ECU’s leading scorer at 19 points per game, of workouts since a 70-47 home victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore on Dec. 2 in which Gardner scored 22 points and K.J. Davis, Shawn Williams and Seth LeDay each had 10. “It’s for us to keep working on our game and get better and for us to shoot the three-point ball better. We just want to shoot better, in general, and lock in on the plays and the personnel coming up.”
First-year Pirate coach Joe Dooley added that shooting has been a sticking point this week.
“I think the big thing is we’ve been able to spend a lot of time shooting,” he said. “We are young and their bodies have hit the wall a little bit. During the last couple of days we haven’t done a ton of contact stuff, but we’ll get back to being ourselves these next couple days and then get a day off and get back to grinding.”
ECU’s women’s team hasn’t played since Dec. 1 and returns to action Thursday.
The ECU men were 4-4 before wins against Appalachian State and Eastern Shore.
Gardner is the only Pirate who has started all 10 games. He was joined in the most recent starting lineup by Williams, Davis, LeDay and rookie point guard Tae Hardy, who started but played a season-low eight minutes.
Hardy has nine starts. All other players have five or less.
Dooley said player combinations for his squad have been fluid mainly because of the style of play by a lot of opponents thus far and their tendency to play with smaller lineups.
ECU big men Justin Whatley and Rico Quinton, a freshman and the team’s tallest player at 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, have been limited to three games and two games, respectively, because of injuries. Their health and development are key for the Pirates as they progress toward completing their nonconference schedule on Dec. 28 and then turn to a challenging and more busy American Athletic Conference slate in January.
“I think we’ll be able to tweak some things, and we are still trying to figure out our rotation,” Dooley said. “There hasn’t been much separation (between players). Finally everyone is healthy, so we’ll have the chance to evaluate them during practice. … When we get to league play, we’re going to see a lot more big bodies and will have to get those guys ready.”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at email@example.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.