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Dooley addresses roster turnover, UConn's exit

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East Carolina's head coach Joe Dooley speaks during an interview on June 25, 2019.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Led by an 11-player recruiting class that already has 10 of those players participating in summer workouts, East Carolina basketball's roster is fully stocked again and headed in a new direction.

Forward Jayden Gardner is the lone active returnee from the 2018-19 season that saw ECU struggle through another campaign with a 10-21 record in coach Joe Dooley's return to leading the Pirates. Seth LeDay, who tore his ACL late in the season, is rehabbing his injury with the Pirates.

Dooley and his staff, including lead recruiters Raphael Chillious and Steve Roccaforte, spent the last few months working on a major roster transformation as they hope to put the Pirates in better position for this year and future seasons.

"Hopefully this is the first and last time we'll experience that," Dooley said Tuesday of an offseason that saw most of the players on last year's roster enter the NCAA transfer portal, including most recently guard Shawn Williams who was the 2017-18 American Athletic Conference rookie of the year, to be replaced by incoming recruits. "I like what I have seen so far. I think we are longer and more athletic."

ECU won 10 games each of the last two seasons and hasn't had a winning record since 2012-13.

The only newcomer who is not yet in Greenville is J.J. Miles, a 6-foot-7 guard from Cape Fear Community College. Seven of the Pirates' new players come from the junior college ranks.

"J.J. is finishing up summer school and is ahead in the classroom, but he just won't be done in time for second (summer) session," Dooley said. "He'll be here in August."

The highest-rated recruit, according to recruiting website 247Sports.com, is 6-1 point guard Tremont Robinson who last played at Northwest Mississippi CC and has three years of eligibility remaining. Fellow guard Tyrie Jackson played one season at Virginia Tech, and 7-foot high school prospect Charles Coleman (Brookline, Mass.) was previously verbally committed to Wake Forest and recruited by Duke before signing with the Pirates in May.

Gardner was a freshman standout a year ago as an undersized post player, at 6-6 and 245 pounds, and could benefit from the presence of Coleman and other newcomers. He averaged 16.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game as a freshman.

"Jayden has been doing good and I think he has set a real good example and he understands what we want," Dooley said. "I think he is excited. From a selfish standpoint, now he doesn't have to play center because we have some bigger bodies."

The Pirates, who held a fantasy basketball camp for local Boys and Girls Club kids on Tuesday, have conducted a few basketball workouts as Connecticut is reportedly working on leaving the AAC to return to the Big East. Reports surfaced nationwide last weekend about UConn's imminent move.

"It's been in the works and from a geographical standpoint, it makes sense for them," Dooley said of the Huskies, who since 1998 have won four national championships in men's basketball and 10 in women's hoops. "We are still a really good league. You look at it and they were 16-17 (overall) last year and we still had six teams in the postseason, so obviously I think it helps them and I don't think it really kills the league."

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

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