Pirate Prepare For Preseason Camp
College basketball season is right around corner as the East Carolina men’s basketball team is set to begin its preseason camp next Friday. For the second consecutive year, the Pirates will open their season against N.C. Wesleyan on Nov. 14, but there is plenty of work to be done for fifth-year head coach Jeff Lebo between now and then. ECU was riddled with injuries last season, particularly in the front-count, which forced Lebo to almost completely scrap the style of play he designed for his personnel during the offseason and play in a way that best masked his team’s considerable size deficiencies. This all began when starting forward Marshall Guilmette went down with a serious knee injury in ECU’s narrow loss at Duke last November, limiting the Pirates to just two true forwards — sophomore Michael Zangari and freshman Brandan Stith — for the rest of the season. Guilmette, who also suffered a hip injury that caused him to sit out during ECU’s magical CIT Tournament run in spring 2013, has gone through the Pirates’ rehabilitation program and carefully rested his knee over the last 10 months, but was still hesitant to say whether or not he was 100 percent yet. “My legs are still getting back,” Guilmette said. “They’re definitely sore from that, but it’s a good sore. It’s not the painful sore I was dealing with before. So I’m just working my way back, conditioning-wise.” Leading up to the start of preseason camp, the Pirates have been limited to just two hours on the floor for practice per week, leaving Lebo slightly reserved on the health of his sophomore forward and how durable he can be with his knee. “We’re going only two hours a week now,” Lebo said at the Smith-Williams Center. “He’s been fine during a hour here, hour there, so we’re hoping that he’ll be able to sustain that, day after day, for two and a half hours.” Lebo added that Guilmette and the rest of the Pirates passed their annual mile test last Sunday. Although there are several more options available to Lebo now, another major concern is replacing the scoring of decorated sharpshooter Akeem Richmond, who graduated in May after breaking all of the school’s 3-point shooting records. The easy answer to fill Richmond’s shoes is rising sophomore Caleb White. As a freshman, White was asked to utilize his 6-foot-7, 190-pound frame with more of an inside presence — considering the Pirates’ interior shortfalls — and had success. He started in 30 games, was the team’s second-leading scorer (12.4 points per game) and collected 27 double-figure performances. Now that ECU is expected to have more bodies on the front line this season, White can return to playing on the wing. “I can go to where I’m comfortable and a more natural position for me, offensively and defensively,” White said. “I’m looking to be whatever Coach (Lebo) wants me to be, but I want to be that consistent scoring option.” In addition to White, Florida State transfer shooting guard Terry Whisnant and freshman point guard Lance Tejada are both expected to be viable scoring options as newcomers this season. Also, seniors Paris Roberts-Campbell and Antonio Robinson and juniors Michael Zangari and Prince Williams are back in the fold. ECU's schedule was recently released and it included a non-conference game against North Carolina at the Dean Smith Center and, of course, two American Athletic Conference matchups with the defending national champions, Connecticut. In the last two seasons, the Pirates competed closely with N.C. State, Duke and UNC, but fell short in all three games. In those narrow losses at Cameron Indoor Stadium and the Smith Center, ECU was patted on the back and commended for its efforts (and more than just a couple players were seen wearing smiles in the immediate aftermath of their defeat). Now in a more respectable basketball conference, with an experienced crop of players that are accustomed to winning, that way of thinking is no longer acceptable. “We have the numbers this year,” White said. “I think what took us out of games was running out of gas or running out of bodies down the stretch. I know we can compete with everybody, but I want to win those games.”
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