GREENVILLE, N.C. — ECU newcomers Terry Whisnant and Lance Tejada expect to make an immediate impact for the Pirates this fall.
Two of the Pirates’ most intriguing newcomers going into next season journeyed from the state of the Florida to join the East Carolina
men’s basketball team.
Former Florida State shooting guard Terry Whisnant
, who is originally from Cherryville N.C., started 19 games for the Seminoles and shot 36 percent from 3-point range during the 2012-2013 season.
After transferring to ECU last May, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound junior was forced to watch last season from the bench in accordance to NCAA transfer rules as the Pirates were often times out-manned in their final year in Conference USA.
“It kind of sucks sitting out a year,” Whisnant told Inside ECU Sports at the Smith-Williams Center this week. “But with that comes a lot of learning and experience. I’ve gotten to see the tendencies of all my teammates, … get familiar with the plays or how the coaches work and for me, overall, just improve everyday on everything I need to.”
Incoming freshman Lance Tejada was once ranked 96th on ESPN’s Top 100 during his senior year at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Fla.
Florida State, Miami (Fla.), and the Atlantic Coast Conference champions, Virginia, were all among the schools that offered Tejada a scholarship after he averaged 23.3 points and 4.5 assists as a senior. But when the smoke cleared, the 6-foot-1 guard stayed true to the verbal commitment he made to ECU last August.
“The deciding factor in me coming here was my comfort with coach (Jeff) Lebo and with my teammates on my visit,” said Tejada. “I’ve always wanted to go to school in a college town and when I came on my visit, I loved the atmosphere.”
Although the paths Whisnant and Tejada took to get to ECU were different, they will both be asked to do something similar — replace the scoring from one of the best shooters in school history, Akeem Richmond
Richmond is just one of 13 players in NCAA history to make 400 3’s in a career and his 155 3-pointers last season were the third-highest single-season total in NCAA history.
“Filling Akeem’s shoes is going to be pretty big. He was a phenomenal shooter and one of the best in the country,” Whisnant said. “For me, I just want to come in and play to my potential.”
Whisnant will likely fill the obvious hole in the Pirates’ starting lineup at shooting guard. As for Tejada, he will participate in a competitive position battle at point guard with upperclassmen Antonio Robinson
and Prince Williams
Robinson, now a senior, is a sure-handed, pass-first point guard that takes good care of the basketball and can play on both sides of the floor, while Williams, who is listed at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, has proven to be a better option offensively and brings an element of size that no other point guard on the roster can.
Now a part of the mix, Tejada feels he can contribute immediately and has already set lofty goals for his freshman season.
“This year I want to make at least the All-Freshman AAC Team and I want to win a conference championship,” he said. “I expect to be like a floor general that puts everyone in the right spots and also bring a little bit of scoring.”
Ever since the arrival of Lebo in 2010, the men’s basketball program has grown exponentially and the environment surrounding it has changed. ECU is now a member of a conference that features last year’s national champion — as well as three other NCAA Tournament teams — and the runner-up in the NIT Tournament.
In the last two seasons, the Pirates were smiling and being pat on the back in the aftermath of single-digit road-losses at North Carolina and Duke. This new crop of players seems to have a different mentality that no loss will be tolerated and never celebrated.
Lebo told Inside ECU Sports last month that Whisnant was not “a guy that who will be in awe when he steps on the floor with guys who have big reputations and have won a lot of games nationally.”
The marquee opponent on the schedule this season is the defending-champion Connecticut Huskies, who the Pirates will face twice in conference play. When asked about the Huskies, Tejada calmly spoke about them like he would any other opponent.
“I just look at it as just another team that we’re trying to get through. They won, but I still don’t give them no credit until they prove it to us.”
Expectations have risen. Now, results need to follow.