East Carolina Basketball: Guard Tristen Newton a 2020-21 breakout candidate

East Carolina Basketball is hoping to rise up the ladder of the AAC. To do so, they’ll need a breakout campaign of sophomore guard Tristen Newton.

East Carolina Basketball is coming off a 10-21 season where they brought in eight new players and brought back Joe Dooley as the Head Coach. This roster turnover and coaching change have set ECU up for a crucial, yet promising 2020-2021 campaign.

Rising Junior Jayden Gardner is a very popular pick for the American Conference POTY. Pair him with the leadership of veterans such as Tyrique Jackson, J.J Miles, and Ian Jones, as well as a potential star in Noah Farrakhan, and the Pirates look dangerous in the AAC.

However, perhaps overshadowed by Gardner’s stardom or Farrakhan’s hype stands Rising Sophomore Tristen Newton, one of the most underrated players in college basketball.

Newton was one of the top scorers in the class of 2019, averaging 37.4 PPG his Senior year in high school, yet was unranked and had very few offers. He committed to ECU over schools such as Evansville and Jackson State.

Entering a recruiting class with eight new players on the ECU roster, Newton earned a ton of minutes over the course of the year, averaging out to almost 30 MPG. He averaged 11.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 3.7 APG, a freshman stat line that mirrors the likes of Ja Morant and Obi Toppin, who both exploded for mid-major schools their sophomore seasons.

If Newton can build on last year’s success, look for the Pirates to contend for an AAC title and a March Madness berth. I had the opportunity to Interview him this summer, which will be on the next slide.

What Tristen Newton’s thoughts on for the upcoming season

First off, I hope you and your family are staying safe during these times. Have you had access to a gym and has the team been able to work out together at all?

“Nah I didn’t have any access to basketball gyms, but my dad went out and bought a hoop for my brother and I to get up shots every day, but we did have a gym to go lift at.. Also we haven’t worked out all together yet, just small groups. “

You were unranked coming out of high school, despite being one of the best scorers in the country. Did that frustrate you and how were you able to block out the distraction of the scouting and recruiting process?

“Yeah, it was a little frustrating not being heavily recruited. I feel like I was one of the best players in the class and to not get any recognition was tough. And there wasn’t much distraction tbh.. The recruits came later in my senior season towards playoff time so I just locked in on our season. “

What did your recruitment look like and how did you end up at ECU?

“Recruitment was real slow. West Virginia was the first big-name school to reach out, but besides that, it was real slow. I ended up at ECU because my AAU Coach Brown hit up roc because he thought I’d be a good fit there. Roc looked at the film and came down to see me later that week and threw the offer that same day. “

You were able to come in and make a huge impact right away for the pirates, starting 19 games in your freshman year and setting the freshman assist record, as well as averaging 11 points. How were you able to come in and earn minutes as a freshman?

“Honestly minutes were kind of handed to me with Pig and Tre both going down. I don’t know if you know but Coach Dooley was going to redshirt me but we were low on guards.. So I just worked hard in practice and it paid off during the games, so when those guys did come back I was adjusted to the speed and physicality and was able to keep those minutes. “

ECU brought in eight new players last season, including you. What was it like to play on a team with that much roster turnover?

“It was actually fun playing with all the new guys. Coming in no one but Jayden had a set spot in the lineup. So it was fun being able to compete with those guys in practice knowing we are all going hard cause we want those minutes. “

What is the toughest place to play in the American and what was your favorite moment from last season?

“The toughest place was by far Cincinnati. The crowd was packed so about 15,000 all yelling, and plus their stadium isn’t like most colleges. And it was really hard to breathe so that was a tough one. And my favorite moment has to be the game-winner against SMU, that’s the moment I knew I could do well in this conference. “

Finally, what are you looking forward to for this upcoming season and what are your goals for yourself, as well as your team?

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how everything is going to go because of this virus. I want to see if we are going to have fans and all that. But also traveling to the new stadiums I haven’t been to yet and I think we are going to be really good as well. For myself, I want to be first-team all-conference. And as a team, I’m hoping we win the conference and make the NCAA tournament. That’s our goal as a whole right now.”

While Gardner will receive most of the attention for East Carolina Basketball this upcoming season, key pieces such as Tristen Newton will be just as important for the team’s future success.