Jayden Gardner Vs. Houston

ECU's Jayden Gardner shoots the ball over a Houston defender.

After showing a slew of football games, ecupirates.com switched it up last Saturday and put on a showing of East Carolina University’s 2007 victory over North Carolina State University in men’s basketball.

The 2007 Pirate basketball team finished the season 11-19 and saw nearly all of it’s victories come when playing under the roof of Minges Coliseum in Greenville, North Carolina. One of those home victories came in the form of a stunner over the NC State Wolfpack. The Pirates, under the head coaching direction of Mack McCarthy at the time, welcomed a JJ Hickson-led Wolfpack team onto their home floor.

“I mean it was big at that time because I felt like that was the direction when I joined in 2006 with coach Stokes (Ricky Stokes), he wanted to recruit the state and play against the in-state big dogs,” former ECU basketball player John Fields said.

Fields, a sophomore forward from Fayetteville, North Carolina, was the leading rebounder for the Pirates and for the night in the matchup with the Wolfpack and was one of nine Pirate players from the state of North Carolina.

“It was a brotherhood, everybody coming from the state. I knew Sam (Hinnant) and Corey (Farmer) when I was growing up, hearing about them up in Charlotte. Me and Brandon (Evans) played against each other in Fayetteville before he moved to Tennessee so you can count him too,” Fields said. “It was just a tight-knit bunch.”

Fields came away with 11 rebounds and seven points over 28 minutes of play. The only Pirate hooper to spend more time on the floor that night was the leading scorer for the Pirates and the game, junior guard Sam Hinnant. Hinnant came away with 30 points in 34 minutes of play and was rather efficient from the field, scoring on 10 of his 13 attempts and finishing 4-6 from the free throw line.

The Wolfpack squad was far more efficient than the Pirates at the free throw line as NC State shot 76% from the line and the Pirates finished the night at just 60% from the stripe. The Pirates more than made up for it at the three point line though, as they shot 55% from deep in comparison to the Wolfpack’s meek 31%.

“Just in the first half we saw Sam had that look in his eye,” Fields said. “I had to do my job against JJ Hickson in the post because he was a man child at that point. It was just a total team effort, Sam went bonkers, Corey made some big plays at the end of the game and I feel like everybody did their job and the outcome was just electric.”

Fields managed to keep Hickson quiet that night as Hickson only managed 15 points and eight boards. The one and done star went on to be drafted 19th overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers in that year’s NBA draft. Hickson played a number of years in the NBA and his longest stint with any one team was his first three seasons with the Cavaliers.

“You knew when you banged around with him, he was a one and done guy,” Fields said. “It was a good battle and at the beginning of the game they went up like 13-4 against us and then we went to a couple of matchup zones and we just slowed him down and then Sam just went bonkers.”

The Pirates finished off the Wolfpack 75-69 that night behind the pair of performances from Hinnant and Fields as well as on the backs of the 7,623 fans that were in attendance that night.

Former Pirate basketball player James Legan was a junior on the 2007 Pirate squad and he spoke to the environment from that night and how the fans played their role.

“You look at it man, it’s just everything you really dreamed about to play in front of a crowd that size,” Legan said. “You can’t really put it into words and I could barely hear myself scream and talk. We were trying to talk on defense and we could barely hear each other, it was like we were whispering on the floor.”

Legan and Fields both have been playing professional basketball for several years now in different leagues. The pair are both currently working on playing their 10th seasons professionally and Legan attributes some of his professional success to what he learned as a Pirate at ECU.

“I’m nine years in the game right now and next year will make the tenth,” Legan said. “We learned how to fit into different teams early on in our careers, me moving from Texas all the way to East Carolina and pretty much taking minutes from players that were already there. You got to have some type of fight in you to do that and I think anywhere I go in this world, I’ll have that fight and be able to will myself onto the court.”

Legan said the guys in that locker room that season are his “brothers for life” and was able to say that because of what they experienced together as members of Pirate Nation while playing basketball in Greenville, North Carolina.

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