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Funny…ECU hoops may be making the loudest statement in NBE equation

I know…never…ever…like really…never ever would I have expected to write a post on this space about Pirate basketball…let alone during football spring camp…but here it is anyway.

Maurice Kemp – aka the Pirate Highlight Reel – has been the face of a high-flying, disciplined ECU squad

Out of the gate, here, let me say big kudos to Coach Jeff Lebo, his staff, and this electric ball club. Man…they not only peaked at the right time, but have done so with both exciting basketball and class. Couldn’t be happier for those boys and that staff…and for the fans at ECU…nobody deserves it more than the team and the diehards.

In all the hoopla – you know, the Pirates being the only college hoops team in North Carolina still playing ball – and with the CIT Championship on tap Tuesday night out in Ogden, UT – I want to talk about something else this team may be doing for the ECU cause.

During the many times the former Big East left us out…throughout all of the ridicule thrown around by Big East fans and our friends at our system sister schools…there was the sentiment that ECU basketball was the albatross for the Pirates…the big weight around the ankles and good reason why the Pirates should never, ever, never be let in the conference. Further, it was not-so-subtly noted by the departing C7 schools that ECU was not even “potentially” good enough to merit inclusion in any league of their ilk.

Well…you like apples?

It seems that this run by the hoops team could very well be the exposure that really puts the exclamation point on the Pirates departure from CUSA into a conference that will feature the likes of UConn, Cincinnati, Memphis, and Temple on its roster. We all know the boost that hoops will get in the form of national exposure and hence, recruiting, and all the good that comes with making Lebo’s job of making ECU better, easier. But how funny is it that the football team and its path into the NBE may have been given momentum by the hoops program. With the hoops team getting this exclusive exposure (only 6 teams in the country still going at it, right?), the program – the overall athletic profile – at ECU has new perception highs. Nevermind that basketball has been near-dismal till last year. Who cares that baseball is struggling (the rep is safe there)? Nationally, this team is being seen…and the clips being shown show a level of play that should not be hard to use to entice maybe one or even two kids ECU never would dream of getting to come in (and in hopes, that can mean the difference between good and great).

Up here, in the Philly Metro area, casual conversations about hoops and particularly in terms of the NBE going forward are including ECU. Had a guy at the gym react to my ECU sweatshirt with a reference to basketball. In fairness, he started with a, “hey, I wish ECU was playing football this year (in the NBE)…like their program.” But here is the jaw-dropper…then he says, “they have a pretty good basketball program there, too, right?”

At at client, I had a discussion with a Temple alum and the whole conversation was focused on hoops. He wanted to know if ECU could sustain this success…could we hold on to Lebo…have we started to focus on DC, Philly, New York for hoops players yet…and what do they have coming back next year…these are the types of questions that indicate that you are relevant. For ECU basketball to head into the transitional year  as we walk toward the NBE as “relevant” is nothing short of amazing…a bit of serendipity that we certainly can enjoy.

Of course, we need a respectable performance – win or lose – on Tuesday night and the way this team is playing…we all should expect it. But, really, the amazing run here and hitting the 20-win plateau with great games against great opponents means the world in hoops persona outside of Greenville and this one season has built up a huge load of hoops capital for the program to use on its way to the NBE, the off-season may generate as much attention as the football team gets when they are not in-season.

It is hard to believe that the hoops performance this year didn’t make Mike Aresco’s job a lot easier in making the all sports inclusion happen for ECU (and don’t doubt for a second that he wasn’t a fan of that from the jump…he wanted to deliver that to Coach Holland…it was the Presidents that were scuttling it).

Indeed, the hoops team – the unlikeliest hero – stood up big for the whole sports program.

Love to hear if anyone else sees this as a big deal in regards to the NBE.

Go Pirates, Beat Weber!

15 comments on “Funny…ECU hoops may be making the loudest statement in NBE equation

  1. Blackbeard's Ghost

    This is huge for us RC. Exposure by winning in (anything really) in my eyes is the number one way to build all programs. The fact that this team has gelled at the right time is priceless. Possible recruits that haven’t given ECU a second look are now doing just that. Lebo’s style of play is kind of wide open and every player gets involved. It’s an exciting brand of basketball. And now ECU can boast a conference worth boasting about.

    I look for more from this program and for it to really take off now… long as we can hold onto Coach Lebo. THAT will be the measuring stick as to how far we can go. Go Pirates!!

    • Always glad to hear from BBG…thanks for checking in. I am so with you…a huge moment in the ECU continuum happening right now in front of our eyes.

      God…I hope they can finish it…though the impact is already happening.

      Suddenly, the NBE looks like a pretty nice hoops league…not only the big four: Conn, Temple, Cincy and Memphis, but an emerging Pirates and UCF programs and hopefully a reborn Houston program could become a good thing.

      I know that this northern Pirate is really looking forward to the now close by away games…

      Go Pirates, Go!

  2. GMTA…without a doubt.

    Thanks for checking in on checking in Mike!


    • Pharma

      where is hunter furr? he was a true four star recruit that was never given a chance to show his talents last season. he ran a 4.24 and was one of the fastest backs in college football. i have not seen anything written about him this year.

      • Hi RC…sorry so long on response.

        Furr going to track is frustrating…thought he had some good potential for the Pirates…maybe not as an every down back, but here and there and maybe on goal line and on special teams.

        One door closes, another opens I guess and I think our RB situation looks pretty darn good right now.

        Go Pirates, Go!

  3. Next year, we’re going to the next step…The NIT…this post season tournament is a level below the NIT…which is a level below the NCAA tournament…so my prediction next year is that the Pirates get an NIT bid..of course with wishful thinking!!! Go Pirates!!

    • Welcome Jabbins…

      If it is all the same…let’s just skip the NIT and go straight back to the NCAAs.

      Go Pirates, Beat Weber!

  4. No Quarter

    We have a class guy in Lebo. Will we be able to keep him around for very long? That’s the question. Hopefully, he will and, if so, I believe our program will only get better. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for tonite’s game and let’s hope we can pull it out. I always say winning breeds winning. Learning to win is first and most important part in developing a great program.

    • Cheers and welcome NQ…

      Lebo is the key…he has so much capital to spend in this recruiting season…cannot wait to see what it yields.

      Crossing fingers that we do not have an anti-climactic finish tonight. A good showing win or lose will be positive for the program. I am excited beyond words for the program.

      Lovin’ every minute of this run.

  5. Mike in Durham

    Great write up Ron! My take on the CIT Evansville game, Pirate win:

    Now THAT was a PROGRAM win! ECU’s high octane, Luke Skywalker offense was almost overshadowed by its own tenacious, stingy defense.
    Kemp was a stud, hitting leaners, floaters, consuming lobster dishes from Miguel, & the rim rattlers, as they say, OMG! Robert Sampson was special, great on the boards, scoring & at the free throw line. Miguel was on his “A” game, playing like a man possessed, hitting the 3s, driving to the hoop & giving out more assists than a Boyscout at a crosswalk. PRC hung on Ryan Colt (Evansville’s leading scorer) like a cheap suit, hold the starch. Ty Armstrong was a force on the inside, reigning down inside jumpers and hook shots. Akeem was busy playing stingy defense.

    Hallelujah, can I get a witness, or maybe 5400? The crowd was boisterous, rowdy & encouraging throughout the game, reaching a near deafening decible level after Mr. Kemp’s posterized Evansville 6’10” center—a “how many people near me can I high five” type dunk—we ALL went nuts! ECU ran their Purple Aces right off the court faster than Tim Floyd can yank off a tie.

    Yep, just another roundball game in Minges—NOT!! More like the re-birth of ECU men’s basketball at a new level! A total TEAM effort that left many Pirate fans astounded & so proud. On Easter Sunday we woke up to realize it was not a dream, ECU basketball had risen to heights many fans had not thought possible. It was an incredible (and incredulous) accomplishment for ECU men’s basketball!
    Go Pirates, bring that CIT Trophy home!

  6. No Quarter

    I am now just recovering from Tuesday Night’s game. March….or April Madness at its best. I don’t know if I’ve seen a better basketball game never the less a better finish. Richmond’s dagger at the end was one for the Pirate Ages. Unbelieveable clutch shot not to mention the play of Kemp and Paul down the stretch. Cudos to Weber State for battling to the end but somehow, someway the Pirates made the plays that counted. BIG, BIG, BIG win for us as a school and Program. This could very well be the jump start this program needed.

    • Well said NQ and echoes my feelings as well. I suspect that Lebo is working this to a great end recruiting wise. His recruiting toolset has never been fuller with this title in hand, ESPN touting Kemp, a good core returning and the new conference.

      Excited to see what the program’s next big splash will be.


  7. ultraviolet

    I hope Lebo can recruit that next step level player for the new league. He certainly can prepare them and is a fantastic in game bench jockey.

    • Good to hear from you UV…

      Lebo is definitely doing a great job…hopefully he maxes the recruiting impact of the CIT coverage and success.

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