Checking in for the first time

Miguel Paul drives past teammate Paris Roberts-Campbell during practice. -Dan Willet | The East Carolinian

Transfer player Miguel Paul ready to contribute on the hardwood.

Miguel Paul spent the summer of 2010 working extremely hard on his game.

The point guard spent countless hours practicing, lifting weights, and learning the system of then-new ECU head basketball coach Jeff Lebo.

There was only one problem. When the 2010 season started, Paul couldn’t play.

“It was really tough,” he said, shaking his head. “It didn’t really hit me at first, when we were just practicing. But once the games came around, boom! It hit me.”

Paul transferred here in May 2010 after playing two seasons at the University of Missouri. Under NCAA rules, he was allowed to practice and be a part of every facet of Pirate basketball—until game time that is.

“Everybody else was getting ready to play, and here I was, dressed in a suit having to sit out,” he said. “That was the worst part.”

A self-proclaimed “Boys and Girls Club kid,” Paul grew up in Lakeland, Fla. His father and brother both played football in college, but Paul fell in love with basketball at an early age and decided to pursue success on the hardwood rather than the gridiron.

After a decorated high-school career, Paul weighed scholarship offers from high-ranking schools such as Clemson and Memphis before deciding to play at Missouri.

But after averaging 3.25 points per game over two years, and averaging just 12.1 minutes per game as a sophomore, Paul decided it was time for a change.

“I knew they played fast, and I’m pretty quick with the ball, so I thought I was going to be able to showcase my skills,” he said of choosing Missouri out of high school.

“But it wasn’t what I was looking for. I had some good games there and played a lot of minutes, but I was just looking for a bigger role than what I had there,” said Paul.

So Paul sought a transfer. He said that he considered some bigger programs, but didn’t want to go somewhere where he would be buried on the bench.

All he wanted was a chance to contribute. Enter ECU.

“Coach Lebo brought me in and there was just this family feeling,” Paul recalled. “He told me that if I came in and worked hard, I would be able to showcase my skills and we would have a chance of winning a lot.”

Paul was sold, and came to Greenville. But before he could contribute, there was the transfer rule that required him to sit out last year.

For a kid who has played basketball since age three, it was an understandably difficult period. But Paul took the opportunity to not only learn from former Pirate point guard Brock Young, but also to take a good look at himself and his situation.

“It was a really humbling experience,” he said. “Growing up playing basketball, I never had to sit out. Last year was the first time I was without basketball, and it makes you think about how much you have to enjoy this time that you have basketball.”

Paul has basketball back this year, and ECU will need him as they are tasked with replacing guards Young, Jontae Sherrod and Jamar Abrams. The mass backcourt exodus means Lebo will look to Paul’s experience, as well as his blazing speed, to help recoup some of that lost productivity.

He will be jostling for playing time with the other new faces on the squad, but he welcomes that challenge with open arms.

“I work everyday like I don’t know what’s going on or who’s going to start,” he said. “Coach Lebo always tells us that it’s not about who starts the game; it’s about what you do with the minutes that you get. I realize that my shot may not come on the first possession, or even in the first five minutes. But I just have to relax and let it come to me.”

As for what Pirate fans can expect from Paul on the court, the task is simple: keep up.

“If the guys can run with me, they’re going to get the ball and they’re going to score,” he said bluntly. “All they have to do is run with me.”


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