Pirate celebration continues, and well it should

Published 11:15 am Sunday, June 2, 2019

Despite being the overwhelming favorite to capture the American Athletic Conference baseball tournament last weekend, East Carolina had to limp back home without a title. The team with the winningest conference regular-season mark in league history bowed out after a 1-2 showing in Clearwater (FL).

Still, ECU had plenty to hang its tri-cornered Pirate hat on, beginning with a second straight year of hosting an NCAA Baseball Regional (almost made it to Super-Regional hosting duties, but missed it by ‘that much’).

They received more good tidings when a basketball recruiting announcement was made at mid-week.

While all the news last week as far as college hoops player gathering in the AAC, and most of the country really, centered on what sort of Memphis Stew head coach Penny Hardaway was cooking up in Bluff City, a team closer to home – and closer to our hearts – had a little to hoist the colors about on its own.

East Carolina may have finally landed the big one, and the Purple-and-Gold beat out some heavyweight programs to do it.

Three-star seven-foot center Charles Coleman of Boston (MA) Dexter School picked ECU after months and months of heavy pursuit. Coach Joe Dooley spent much of this season chasing after a difference-making big man, and that doggedness paid off in a major way on Monday night when the Bay State product picked ECU.

Coleman, had originally committed to Wake Forest, and even had some strong feelers from no less than Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. Instead, he spurned the ACC over late offers from Cincinnati, Connecticut, Creighton, Georgia, Pittsburgh and others. Earlier in the process, Coleman was offered by Oklahoma, USF, Wake and more.

Associate head coach Raphael Chillious and head coach Joe Dooley have been recruiting Coleman since both touched down in Greenville in the spring of 2018. Chillious’ recruitment of Coleman actually dates back to his days as an assistant to former Huskies coach at UConn, Kevin Ollie, before Chillious’ time at ECU, and that long-standing relationship allowed the Pirates to beat out some serious contenders for a player of Coleman’s size and skill-set.

Coleman is the 11th commitment of the 2019 recruiting class for ECU, which is completely revamping its roster to compete in the star-studded American Athletic Conference. That group also includes former Northampton County wing guard J.J. Miles, who came aboard the Pirate ship from tiny Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington. Miles addresses another ECU need: three-point shooting.

Having a seven-foot center to help relieve the rebounding from others will have a huge effect on the team. The Pirates were dead-last in the league in hitting the boards. Having a strong rebounder should allow ECU to improve on their offensive capabilities, particularly their scoring, where they were next to last in the league.

Coleman originally made an unofficial visit to ECU at a fortuitous time in Pirate-land: Jan. 5, the day the Bucs scored a big win over Cincinnati. But hearts may have sank to Davy Jones Locker just days later after he also made a trip to Wake Forest, where he verbally committed on March 2. Coleman didn’t sign with the Demon Deacons and eventually backed off the pledge, decommitting just two weeks ago on May 13.

Georgia and Connecticut offered on May 14. Duke and Pittsburgh offered on May 15. But his trust in ECU’s staff won out in the end.

The 7-foot, 240-pounder has the ability to not only score in the paint and defend the post, but he can also step out and shoot from the perimeter. He’ll join another pair of Dooley’s JUCO commits, Ludgy Debaut (6-11) and Edra Luster (6-11), who’ve also signed with ECU.

First new life in the football program, then baseball’s success, and now something for Purple-and-Gold hoop junkies to go mad over.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.