The East Carolina basketball team entered Friday night’s season opener with several concerns.
And although the Pirates’ decisive, 97-51, win over Division III N.C. Wesleyan does not go as far as answering any of those question marks, it was still the ideal way to begin the 2013-2014 season.
“It was a nice start to the season,” said ECU coach Jeff Lebo. “It’s always nice when you can obviously win your first game, but also get a chance to play as many players as we got to play tonight.
“(There were) a lot of new faces. Obviously, you needed your roster to know who was out there. I did too.”
Indeed, the lone returning starter from last year’s CIT Championship team, junior shooting guard Paris Roberts-Campbell, paced ECU (1-0) with a career-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting (3-for-7 on three-pointers). Last season, he averaged just 5.6 points per game
But it wasn’t just scoring for him, though. Roberts-Campbell was solid defensively and collected four steals in his team-high 30 minutes.
“I’ve been working on my game all summer and I knew I needed to start the season off on the right note,” said Roberts-Campbell. “I’m a team player. I’d rather get everyone else involved and get in where I fit in, but I know I need to be more aggressive offensively looking for my shot.
As for the new faces, true freshmen Caleb White and Brandan Stith each had impressive collegiate debuts for the Pirates on Friday.
Stith, a 6-foot-7 forward, shot a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor for 12 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for his first career double-double. If that wasn’t enough, he also blocked three shots and notched a game-best five steals.
Meanwhile, White, a skinny 6-foot-7 guard, went 6-for-8 shooting for 13 points without any turnovers and energized the crowd with three dunks. With that type of a showing, it has become clear that both White and Stith will be relied on heavily for the Pirates to be successful.
“They are going to be in that rotation. They are going to have to grow up fast and they are going to have to learn under fire,” Lebo told reporters after the game. “It’s exciting for them, scary for me as a coach.”
Despite the raucous atmosphere at Minges Coliseum, ECU struggled out of the gates. Wesleyan (0-1) raced out to a 9-3 lead in the early minutes, before the Pirates awoke.
Starting with a bucket by Marshall Guilmette, ECU went on a commanding 31-3 run that the Battling Bishops could never recover from.
Senior guard Petar Torlak and junior forward Francis Edosomwan were able to get extended minutes on Friday and each recorded their respective career highs. Torlak hit three 3’s for nine points, while Edosomwan went 3-for-3 for six points in eight minutes.
“It was crazy,” said Edsomwan. “First off, I was really tired. I’ve never seen that kind of action before. After a couple sprints down the floor, I was like ‘you all do that for 40 minutes?’ It was crazy.
“I don’t do a lot of things, but I know I can play hard. I can control that.”
ECU will play its first road game of the season Tuesday at UNC-Greensboro. Tip-off time is set for 7 p.m.