White Aims to Take Next Step

GREENVILLE, N.C. — ECU forward Caleb White looks to step into the spotlight during his sophomore season this fall.

Caleb White was thrown into the fire as a freshman last season.

As a result of starting forward Marshall Guilmette undergoing season-ending knee surgery five games into the year and East Carolina losing eight of its players over the offseason that included four starters, White started each of the Pirates' final 30 games.

Head Coach Jeff Lebo was desperate to reinvent some sort of an interior game — both offensively and defensively — and the 6-foot-7 Buckingham, Va. native, who was the third tallest active player on the roster, was the answer.

The only problem was that White wasn't a forward — in fact, he was officially listed as guard — and had not developed much in the post as a three-sport athlete at Virginia Episcopal High School.

However, despite those drawbacks, White had little problem scoring at all spots on the floor last season, averaging 12.4 points per game and shooting 49 percent from the field, which placed him second on the team in both categories. He supplied double-figure scoring outputs in 24 of his 30 starts.

"I think as a freshman, he was feeling his way through. But he did have some big games for us," Lebo said.

There's a good chance that the Pirates could lean on White even more as a sophomore with the upgrade in competition that comes with ECU's move to the American Athletic Conference.

The extent of his role is one of the more intriguing storylines going into this fall.

Will it be similar to last season where White was more of a versatile "stretch four" forward? Probably not, since Guilmette is expected to return and after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, fellow big men Michel Nzege and Keith Armstrong will be added to the mix.

How about as a pure shooting guard? — After all, the Pirates will be without services of their all-time leader in 3's, Akeem Richmond, who graduated in May. This, again, is not likely because shooting guard Paris Roberts-Campbell, who started in 64 of ECU's 69 games over the last two seasons, is back for his senior year and will be joined by former Florida State sharpshooter Terry Whisnant.

It's clear that White's role is purely subjective based on what type of personnel Lebo chooses to surround him with.

If Lebo goes with a smaller lineup, White will likely bring more of the interior game he developed last season. Then, if there are two or three forwards on the floor, he can make his presence felt on the perimeter.

This kind of flexibility that White allows the Pirates to have is precisely why he has the potential to be a game-changer next season.

"I really think the sky is the limit for him. He can be so good if it all clicks in for him," Lebo said in a phone interview with InsideECUSports.com. "He's got to get that confidence about him where he can take over a little bit more.

However, there are two areas that White needs to improve heading into the season: defensively and on the glass.

Considering his height and athleticism, it was surprising to see White have as many problems as he did against perimeter shooters last year. To his defense, the Pirates were forced to play in a zone defensively that opened up shooters beyond the three-point arc. That will likely not be the case this year as Lebo hinted he would return back to man-to-man.

White also struggled with rebounding, averaging just 3.3 boards per game. The cause of his struggles could, again, be attributed to ECU's zone defense and him making the transition from high school to Division I basketball, but, regardless, there is certainly room for improvement.

"I'd like to see him grow his game," Lebo said. "Rebounding, I think, is an area he can help us a lot more. He really works hard in the room and he's up above 200 pounds," which is about 10 pounds more than where he weighed in at the start of last season.

Next season, the Pirates' schedule will feature Cincinnati, Temple and, of course, the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies and White provides a mismatch that opponents need to accountable for.

His potential is undeniable. That was obvious all throughout his freshman year. Now it's time for him to step into the spotlight.

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