East Carolina basketball has a “tentative schedule” for this year.
Coach Joe Dooley used that phrase and pointed to the stack of papers on his desk, concerning scheduling and contracts, during the team’s virtual media day Thursday. Dooley said playing multiple games in a week, beginning late November and into December and 2021, will present different challenges compared to the uncertainty of college football schedules that has come into focus this week especially within the Southeastern Conference.
“There is a lot of uncertainty, as we all know,” Dooley said. “(Multiple games in a week) is a major concern, and then you start factoring in it’s an indoor sport and you factor in the proximity of the players and coaches. I think that is all a concern for everybody. The biggest thing is to maintain the safety of our student-athletes. It’s an ongoing situation and we’re going to listen to the doctors and the medical experts and take their advice with testing and all these other things. There will be some ups and some downs. The most important thing is to keep the kids safe.”
Dooley said there have been positive COVID-19 cases within his team in the past, but currently no active cases.
The NCAA Division I Council recently approved moving back the start date of basketball games to Nov. 25.
“With all the possible scenarios and things we could do, we have a very good game plan, but we also have to be able to adjust on the fly if something pops up,” Dooley said.
ECU is transitioning from a variety of phased workouts to official practices.
“We just have to be ready to go,” said forward Jayden Gardner, who last year as a sophomore led the American Athletic Conference in scoring at 19.7 points per game. “I mean, every time we come to this court and every time the coaches come to the office, we are taking a risk in leaving our homes. If we have enough guarantee we can do it here, we have to have enough guarantee we can do it in Houston or Kansas or Florida or wherever we play. You have to have that confidence and a built-in trust factor.”
The Pirates return all five starters from last year’s squad that finished 11-20. Furthermore, ECU returns more than 97 percent of its scoring and 96 percent of rebounding.
The NCAA also has granted an extra year of eligibility for all winter sports athletes, meaning Gardner could have this season and two more with the Pirates. Dooley said guards Brandon Suggs and Tristen Newton added weight during the offseason, and he lauded Bitumba Baruti for looking more comfortable this preseason compared to last year after transferring in from Chipola (Fla.) College.
Pirate coaches were purposeful in signing point guard Noah Farrakhan from Newark, N.J. He has noticeable speed bursts on the court, according to Dooley, as one of three freshmen on the roster.
“He has had some spurts where he has really been dominant, but he needs to be more aggressive,” Dooley said of Farrakhan, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds. “We need to make him more aggressive with the ball, but he does things from an athleticism standpoint that are very impressive.”