PirateIllustrated - ECU Hoops Set to Open in Charlotte 49er Tip-Off Classic
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ECU Hoops Set to Open in Charlotte 49er Tip-Off Classic

Brandon Suggs and East Carolina travel to Charlotte to open the season at the 49'er Tip-Off Classic.
Brandon Suggs and East Carolina travel to Charlotte to open the season at the 49'er Tip-Off Classic.

ECU was set to start the 2020-21 season at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla. but now the Pirates will now open the 2020-21 season in the newly created 49er Tip-Off Classic in Charlotte Friday night.

The three team event was put together after the cancellation of the Volunteer Classic in Knoxville, Tenn., which included Charlotte, Tennessee and VCU.

The Pirates will now begin the season against the host 49ers on Friday, Nov. 27, at 3 o’clock and then take on Belmont-Abbey the following day at 3 p.m. Both games will be played at Halton Arena.

“Obviously scheduling is a little bit of a fluid situation right now so we’ll be prepared to play Charlotte and Belmont-Abbey on Saturday,” said Dooley, “We’ve had a couple of pretty good days of practice. I’m a little bit disappointed that we didn’t get to play today(Wednesday). I think being able to reschedule some games so quickly, I think it’s given us a little bit of energy.”

“It’s been a long time coming for our guys and I think we’ll be excited,” Dooley told PirateIllustrated.com, “The uncertainty at times creates a little bit of stop-start, stop-start and our guys will be and should be excited and it will be an interesting beginning to the season I think for everybody.”

Dooley said he and his staff had already pre-scouted teams in the Gulf Coast Tournament and then scouted some other teams in multi-team events that ECU did not end up choosing before settling on going to Charlotte.

“Once we figured out that we were going to play Charlotte we have been going back through last year’s stuff and looking at some footage of the latter part of their season and then getting some Belmont-Abbey information.”

Dooley wouldn’t indicate his starting lineup but one would guess that it would be pretty close to last year’s grouping. Charlotte returns three good ones in guards Jordan Shepherd, Jamir Young and Milos Supica.

Young was the Conference USA Freshman of the Year, a third-team All-Conference USA and Conference USA All-Freshman team selection. He led all CUSA frosh in both scoring at 15.5 points and 5.3 rebounds a game.

Shepherd, a third team All-CUSA performer, averaged 14 points a game and four assists and was the team MVP while Serbian senior post man Milos Supica at 6-9, 240 averaged 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in just 15 minutes of play per night.

“Those guys we’ve seen before in person and we’ve seen their style of play a little bit,” said Dooley, “Some of the other guys we have not seen and you don’t know or prepared for what they have done during the preseason in case they do something that they have not done previously so there is always some uncertainty also.”

Dooley told PI that he thinks his team is in pretty good shape heading into the season, but also said until you see how they do in a game you can’t really tell for sure.

“My guess is we’ll be winded early in the Friday afternoon game. We’ll sub some. Our guys have had a couple of days of pretty good practices. It will be interesting to see what we have today and tomorrow and then we’ll know.”

For ECU getting off to a fast start is important in basketball with the level of play in the AAC conference slate to follow.

“I just think not having any exhibition games and not only that, several of our guys and Charlotte’s guys went through the summer where we couldn’t even play pick-up for a good stretch or play five on five so that’s all different,” Dooley told PI, “One thing we do have is fortunately we eleven of the guys back from last year. I do think some of the things we’ve done, they’ve picked up a lot quicker. There is more of a familiarity so they feel more confident and comfortable.”

Due to state and local Covid19 guidelines, fans will not be permitted inside the venue for the event.

“Let’s put our heads down, try to be safe and let’s get rolling,” said Dooley, “Let’s stay positive, test negative and keep rolling.”

Last season, ECU snagged a 60-56 victory over Charlotte at Greenville on the strength of 23 points from Jayden Gardner and 18 from Tremont Robinson-White. The win snapped the Pirates’ three-game losing streak with Charlotte in a series the 49ers lead 18-9.

Saturday’s game against Belmont-Abbey will be the Pirates’ first against the Crusaders since 2004 and 18th overall in the series which dates back to 1937. Last season the Crusaders finished 21-10 overall and 14-6 in the Division II Conference Carolinas.

Friday’s game can be heard across the Pirate Sports Network from Learfield IMG College, while Saturday’s contest will exclusively be broadcast locally on WRHD 94.3 FM. The games will also be streamed on the Charlotte 49ers YouTube page.

East Carolina is slated to open its 2020-21 home campaign on Saturday, Dec. 5, against Radford.

49er Tip-Off Classic Schedule

Nov. 27 - East Carolina at Charlotte (3 p.m.)

Nov. 28 - East Carolina vs. Belmont-Abbey (3 p.m.)

Nov. 30 - Belmont-Abbey vs. Charlotte (6 p.m.)