GREENVILLE, N.C. – With only 40 days remaining until the 2021-22 season tips off, East Carolina held its first “official” practice of the year Thursday inside the Smith-Williams Center.
A year ago, the Pirates weren’t able to practice as a unit until mid-October due to COVID-19 restrictions as the start of the season was delayed.
“It’s a little easier this year because we’ve been able to work with them,” Pirate head coach Joe Dooley said. “Last year we weren’t able to do anything in the spring or in the summer, and at this time of the year we were in smaller groups. It’s been easier to put things in. We have a lot more familiarity”
ECU returns a core group of five lettermen led by senior J.J. Miles, who returns for his third season after the NCAA granted all student-athletes an extra year of eligibility due to the global pandemic. Miles is the Pirates’ top returning scorer after averaging 9.8 points per game in 16 games a year ago.
“We got cheated last year (by the pandemic),” Miles said. “It’s a blessing to be able to play again and have some consistency. Right now, we’re just taking things one day at time, working hard every day and learning to play together.”
Brandon Suggs also averaged more than nine points per game last season in 18 games played, while Tristen Newton and Tremont Robinson-White each averaged more than eight points per game.
Robinson-White and senior Ludgy Debaut are the only returnees to play in each of the Pirates’ 19 games last season.
“The COVID shutdowns affected our offense more than our defense last season,” Dooley said. “At one point we only had four guys. Hopefully this year we won’t have as many disruptions.”
Dooley added nine new players to the roster during the offseason including a trio of Division I transfers: Alanzo Frink (South Carolina), Vance Jackson (Arkansas) and Wynston Tabbs (Boston College).
“(Vance) is going to be able to stretch the defense and Wynston is a career 40 percent shooter,” Dooley stated. “Those guys can do some things scoring wise so that we can play a little bit differently and little bit faster. We spent a lot of time shooting during the spring and summer in skill development and I think we got better on the perimeter.
“Conceptionally these guys a have a better feel (than at this time last year). I feel more comfortable that these guys have a grasp of what we’re trying to do.”
East Carolina opens the 2021-22 season Nov. 9 against South Carolina State inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.