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Dooley, ECU looking for breakthrough recruits

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East Carolina basketball coach Joe Dooley talks with guard Isaac Fleming on the bench during a game against Wichita State on Feb. 6, 2019.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, February 17, 2019

East Carolina basketball coaches have been hot on the recruiting trail, including for Boston 7-footer Charles Coleman who also is a target by Wake Forest, Duke and DePaul, as the Pirates have faced difficulties on the court for another season.

A 79-69 loss to Memphis on Wednesday night, a game in which ECU led 61-60 with 8:11 remaining in Minges Coliseum, dropped the Pirates (9-15 overall) to 2-10 in the American Athletic Conference and recruiting was a focus during the postgame news conference.

That was partly because Memphis and coach Penny Hardaway are prominent in recruiting rankings and the Tigers this year start five seniors, including Jeremiah Martin who has developed into an explosive 6-foot-3 shooting guard and he scored 31 points against ECU.

“I don’t know how long it will take, but we are recruiting high-level guys and we just have to get a couple of them,” said Pirate head coach Joe Dooley, whose team hosts Tulsa today. “We have to develop guys in the program and when we get guys, we have to develop them and retain them.”

The Pirates have been led this year by freshman 6-6 forward Jayden Gardner, last year’s main recruiting target by Jeff Lebo and then Dooley to secure his signature. The in-state product has been slowed some lately by opposing AAC clubs, but he still is averaging 17.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game for the season.

ECU’s only senior who plays significant minutes is point guard Isaac Fleming, who transferred in from Hawaii in 2016 and suffered an injury to the head versus Memphis. That led to freshman wing Tyler Foster playing 33 minutes and he finished with 10 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals, one turnover and a block.

“We are not going to be able to get McDonald’s All-Americans, but we need guys who can develop and be really good players,” Dooley said. “They can be part of getting this thing up, and the other point is we have to get to the point where we have upperclassmen. … Something we have tried to emphasize (in recruiting) is that we are in a great league when you look at the number of guys from our league in the NBA, and there will be more in the future.”

Tulsa (15-10, 5-7) is 3-1 in its last four games and coming off an 80-57 victory at last-place Tulane on Thursday. The Golden Hurricane was 18-of-23 from the free throw line, and 6-7, 222-pound bench player Jeriah Horne scored 20 points with 12 rebounds.

ECU will travel to Tulsa, which also beat Temple 76-58 last weekend, on March 3.

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

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