At the start of this 2016-2017 basketball season, East Carolina got off to a 4-1 start behind captains Caleb White and B.J. Tyson. The Pirates earned victories against Grambling, North Carolina A&T, Stetson and Florida A&M, averaging 70 points per game.
Behind coach Jeff Lebo, the team forced themselves into the conversation with a 7-3 record through 10 games. The Pirates went on a three game skid following their win against North Carolina Central.
During a stretch in January, it seemed as if things began to come together, but the team was still losing. Tyson scored his 1,000 career point with the Pirates, Lebo earned his 100th victory as a coach, new leaders stepped up, and yet the team was 9-10 after their loss to 22nd ranked Cincinnati.
January was a bad month for the East Carolina Men's basketball team. Not only did the team lose seven out of the nine games, but they also lost lost three key parts to the team -- B.J. Tyson, head coach Jeff Lebo, and Caleb White.
Tyson injured his knee in the lost against Houston at home. The Pirates tried to bounce back from losing their leading scorer, but got some grim news just days later when it was announced that coach Lebo would be taking a leave of absence.
Then Kentrell Barkley stepped up. He started to play more aggressive and become a prominent playmaker during the absence of the team;'s natural leaders. Barkley has led the team in scoring and to a few victories this season since Tyson's injury. Freshman forward Elijah Hughes and guard Jeremy Shepard caught everyone's eyes midseason scoring providing much-needed scoring off the bench. Hughes accuracy from outside the arc made the team more versatile, and the freshman averaging just over 10 points a game. Shepard also played extremely well, scoring and facilitating for others.
Now with seven games left in the season, the Pirates will come off a victory against Tulane 74-65 hoping to finish out the season strong. The team, who sits at ninth in AAC, travels to Florida to take on South Florida on Saturday.