ECU comes into this season with high hopes for success. Pirate head basketball coach Jeff Lebo met with the press on Friday to talk about the upcoming season.
The Pirates are coming off of a 15-18 season where they went 6-12 in the American Athletic Conference.
This appears to be a deeper team this season for ECU.
"It's exciting to start the season for our team and coaches. I'm certainly looking forward to the season. We've got a lot of good players and returning guys. A lot of new faces this year on our team," Jeff Lebo said, "We've had seven practices to date and we've got a long way to go yet."
This looks to be a deeper team overall for the Pirates and it will take time for them to all mesh but all indications point to a cohesive unit.
"Anytime you have a lot of new faces you're kind of starting over and you've got to be slow in your teaching. Sometimes that be frustrating for the older guys. We're trying to figure out what we can do, what we're going to be good at and what areas that we're going to be able to exploit and what areas we're going to be weak in. That takes some time with a lot of new faces."
With Andre Washington no longer available after graduating, ECU will look to rebuild in the paint this season. Lebo is still waiting to see who steps up among a group that includes returning letterman Jabari Craig at 6-8 along with 6-11 Bismark State transfer Usman Haruna and 6-8 freshman Justin Whatley.
"I think that's going to be the real question for us. We lost a lot of guys in that area that were experienced players for us. We will have a lot of new guys in that area. We're going to need a big jump from Jabari Craig. He's going to be one of our most important players, I think," said Lebo, "His play, can he elevate his game, stay on the floor and not foul. Can he be a staple for us to throw the ball in to him. From a physical standpoint there is no question that he can play in this league. He's just going to have to have a higher role, stay on the floor for higher minutes and be productive for us."
"Usman is going to be a physical defensive player for us. He's not going to be a big scorer for us. He can run, screen, defend. He's got decent size so his growth and his ability to pick up what we do is going to be important."
ECU is still waiting on the NCAA to make a determination on Seth LeDay who transferred in from Virginia Tech.
"He's a difference maker for us, so he's been really good in the first seven days of practice."
B.J. Tyson comes back after being injured for large chunks of last season. His acclimation back into the lineup was both a physical deal and it then became mental according to Lebo.
"When you get hurt at that time of the season and you have to miss the amount of time that he missed and the team learns to play without you because they have to, it's hard," Lebo said, "He probably pressed a little bit when he came back. He needs to be healthy for us. He's one of our best players. He's an experienced guy. He needs to be able to start and be injury free for the whole season. He didn't do much this summer. We were trying to preserve him a little bit. Hopefully he'll have a great season."
Lebo says he is still trying to figure out how his rotation will go this year but it appears that he has more guys to choose from than before.
"I think in the backcourt we're going to have some depth. We had two guys sitting out, Issac Fleming and Shawn Williams who can help us with our depth in the backcourt. Jeremy's been a proven guy along with B.J. in the backcourt and K.B. (Kentrell Barkley), the strength of our team is going to be there. K.J. Davis can really shoot the basketball for us so we feel pretty good through those areas."
"The inside positions are going to be young, inexperienced and we've got some freshmen in those positions that I think are going to get better as the season goes on."
"We've got to get better shooting the basketball. Last year we were much better defensively. We are much bigger and stronger. We look like an AAC team. What we gained there defensively and rebounding, we gave up a little bit in our skill. We've got to be able to shoot the ball consistently from the perimeter at multiple spots and we did not do that and it's an area of concern for us this year."
Catch Coach Lebo's media day address in it's entirety along with selected ECU basketball players here on PirateIllustrated.com.