After C-USA tourney loss, ECU waits, hopes to keep playing

The Daily ReflectorMarch 15, 2013 

As East Carolina’s men’s basketball team awaits word on whether its season is over, one Pirate is likely eyeing his hoops options after college.

Although ECU lost in a Conference USA tournament quarterfinal against host Tulsa late Thursday night, the Pirates’ 18-12 record and a top-100 RPI might be enough for a berth in the College Basketball Invitational or the College Insider Tournament. During the 2010-11 campaign – coach Jeff Lebo’s first at ECU – the Pirates were 18-15 after C-USA tournament play and hosted a CIT contest.

Regardless of whether East Carolina plays again this season, senior forward Maurice Kemp has drawn interest from NBA scouts and, while he probably will not get drafted, it is possible a pro team or teams will bring him in for workouts.

“He’s really had a terrific year,” Lebo said after Thursday night’s 79-72 defeat. “He’s a kid who adapted to his role. He changed positions for us with the injury to (senior guard) Erin Straughn (who missed the entire season), going from the four position to the three position. He didn’t play any of that his junior year.

“I think he’s just on the first step of being a good basketball player. He’s got a lot of room for improvement and hopefully he’ll have a chance to play when he’s done at East Carolina.”

Kemp’s emergence as ECU’s first first-team All-C-USA pick, and possible future pro, seemingly came out of nowhere. The 6-8 Miami native, who transferred after a season at Alabama A&M and one at Miami Dade College, did not make C-USA’s preseason all-league first or second team. He averaged a respectable 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as a junior for the Pirates.

This season, Kemp led the league in scoring with an 18.6 points per game and averaged 7.8 rebounds, seventh in C-USA. Kemp recorded eight double-doubles this season and eclipsed the 20-point mark 14 times.

With a multifaceted offensive repertoire and a nose for grabbing boards, Kemp, who will probably need to add some bulk to his 190-pound frame, could find himself fighting for a roster spot with a pro team — in the NBA or overseas — later this year.

“He’s been consistent all through the year,” Lebo said. “He hasn’t been all over the place.”

Castleberry: tcastleberry@reflector.com, 252-329-9591 or follow @tcastleberrygdr on Twitter.

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