New Look Pirates Open 2014-2015 Season

ECU will open the 2014-2015 season against N.C. Wesleyan Friday night at Minges Coliseum.

Basketball season has arrived for the East Carolina men’s basketball team. At 7 p.m. Friday night, the Pirates will take the floor at Minges Coliseum and face N.C. Wesleyan to tip off the 2014-2015 season.

And although the Pirates return four starters from last season (17-17 (5-11 Conference USA), this year’s team looks entirely different from the one that was eliminated in the first round of the CIT Tournament in March.

Former Florida State shooting guard Terry Whisnant highlights the four transfers that are eligible to play for the Pirates this season. The Cherryville, N.C. native dialed up 32 3-pointers as a sophomore in 2012-2013 — shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc — and will be asked to replace a large portion of the perimeter scoring left by the Pirates’ all-time leader for 3s, Akeem Richmond.

A year ago, ECU had to shoulder the losses of four seniors and five more players for unexpected reasons, which included basically its entire frontcourt. To fill the void, sophomore forward Marshall Guilmette appears to have fully recovered from the knee injury that forced him to miss all but five games last season. Guilmette was granted a medical redshirt to ensure him three more years of eligibility.

Also, transfers Michel-Ofik Nzege (Winston-Salem State), Keith Armstrong (Robert Morris) and Kanu Aja (City College of San Francisco) will be a part of the mix this season, which adds depth in the post that did not exist a year ago.

“We’ll be a work-in-progress,” fifth-year ECU coach Jeff Lebo said. “We’re a little behind where I’d like to be at this point of the season. I think the reason behind that is we’ve got so many new guys and so many guys that have not had to be dependable and reliable all the time, every possession and parts of possessions.”

Sophomore forward Caleb White returns after finishing as ECU’s second leading scorer (12.4 points per game) in 2013-2014 — only trailing Richmond— and starting 30 games as a freshman. Due to the Pirates’ shortfalls in the paint, White was asked to become more of an interior scorer with his 6-foot-7 frame, rather than the wing player he was brought in to be from Virginia Episcopal School (Buckingham, Va.). That should change this season as White will likely return to where he is comfortable — on the wing.

In addition to White and Whisnant, a pair of freshmen guards will be leaned on for their scoring.

Lance Tejada, who was at one time an ESPN top 100 prospect at Blanche Ely High School (Hollywood, Fla.), was the prized player of Lebo’s most recent recruiting class and is expected to compete with sophomore Prince Williams and senior Antonio Robinson for playing time at point guard. With a little less publicity, former Anson High School (Wadesboro, N.C.) guard B.J. Tyson is expected to add more athleticism to the Pirates’ lineup.

“I’m expecting a lot,” Lebo said of Tejada and Tyson. “They are two freshmen that are really pushing for a lot of playing time. I like both because I think they are both competitive and they are not only competitive. They pick up things quickly.”

In the weeks leading up to Friday’s season opener, ECU has compiled a few concerning injuries.

First it was junior forward Michael Zangari receiving an errant elbow at practice, which has forced him to miss the last four weeks and will likely sideline him for ECU’s first few games of the season. The more concerning blow occurred during a scrimmage last week, where senior shooting guard Paris Roberts-Campbell sustained a knee injury.

Lebo told Inside ECU Sports he is hopeful that Roberts-Campbell can return in a month.

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