When Kurt Nichols was hired as ECU’s football coach last month, athletic director Tim Green and school president Dr. Bill Cole said they were looking for a man who could maintain the momentum established by Tim McCarty in his two seasons leading the Tiger football program.

Apparently that’s not good enough for Nichols.

With the winter recruiting season winding down, Nichols said he and his staff have more than offset the hit ECU recruiting took when McCarty left suddenly to join the staff at Kansas State. And he promised he’s not finished yet. Not by a long shot.

“We surpassed our expectations in the junior colleges because of my connections,” said Nichols, who coached Cisco (Texas) Junior College to the first bowl win in school history last month and was named ECU’s new coach less than three weeks later. “I’m talking to probably another dozen juco players, and out of that group I would like to sign about half of them.”

But Nichols stressed that he doesn’t plan to just settle when it comes to signing recruits for his program.

“I plan to raise the level of expectation of the type of athlete we’re recruiting here,” he said. “And we’re going to raise the academic standards.

“I’m going to challenge the players who are already here by bringing in some competition,” Nichols added. “I not only expect athletic excellence from my players, but I also expect them do do well academically.”

Three of the 10 junior college players signed by ECU so far played for Nichols at Cisco last season — Kory Dell, a first-team all-conference wide receiver, tight end August Peters and linebacker Kolby Williams. Nichols said he was also “very optimistic” that he could land Cisco quarterback Marcus Johnson, the Southwest Junior College Football Conference offensive MVP last fall.

In addition to Dell, Williams and Peters, Nichols said ECU has signed quarterback Robbie Treadwell from NEO (honorable mention all-SWJCFC last season); strong safety Carlos Moody, wide receiver Marcus Pitts and defensive lineman Brandon Hopstein from Jones (MS) Junior College; defensive tackle Cory Robertson from Tyler (Texas) Junior College and all-conference receiver Jake Manning from NEO.

“I’m still talking to several more from Cisco, and I’ll probably have another half-dozen here this spring or next fall,” Nichols said. “And we’re following up on some high school kids from the Oklahoma City area and within 100 miles of Ada.”

Nichols, who son, Ross, is a member of Ada High School’s freshman basketball team and is expected to compete in track and football later this year, said the offensive line is his target area for the rest of the recruiting season (Feb. 1 is the national signing date for high school players). In addition to recruiting, he said he has spent the two weeks since he was hired meeting with his coaches and familiarizing himself with the day-to-day operations of the ECU athletic department.

“The coaches have been orienting me about finances and the way we spend money on equipment and other things,” Nichols noted, adding that his six years operating on something of a shoestring at Cisco should pay dividends in his new job. “I think working at Cisco will be an advantage here. I won’t waste money, and that should help me find money to spend on things we need.”

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Officials from Roff and Stringtown have been looking into the possibility of holding the game between their highly-ranked boys teams at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, but time seems to be an enemy of the plan.

The NBA Hornets, who have been a hit in OKC this winter since moving from New Orleans, have a promotion that offers the Ford Center floor to teams for two hours prior to a scheduled home game, and Roff athletic director Mike Stewart said he was interested in moving the battle of unbeatens — a showdown between his Tigers (No. 5 in Class A) and Stringtown, ranked No. 2 in Class B — out of the cramped Stringtown gym.

He added, however, that the two hours the floor is available won’t allow time for both a boys and girls game.

“We don’t want to go without the girls, so I don’t know if it’s going to happen,” said Stewart, who is also an assistant to Roff coach Darrick Farriell.

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This has been the year of the underclassman in area high school basketball, with freshmen Skyler Jenson (Latta), Danli Mills (Allen), Colton Richardson (Ada) and Jourdan Clark (Ada) and sophomores Caleb Timmons (Byng), Kelsey Howard (Konawa), Tesia Worcester (Stonewall), Mallory Walker (Coalgate) and Randy McCurry and Cameron Mann (Tupelo) all making huge impacts in the first half of the season.

But the biggest difference maker among area freshmen might be a guy who is older than some med school graduates.

Ian Adams, a 25-year-old first-year player from the island of Grenada, has emerged as a force in the post for ECU in recent weeks, and if he continues to develop he could transform the Tigers from a pretty good team into a serious contender in the Lone Star Conference North this season.

Adams, who set a school record with 10 blocks in a tournament last month, had 17 points and 10 rebounds in Thursday’s impressive 70-52 victory over Abilene Christian as ECU — picked last in the LSC North in preseason — won its sixth straight game to improve to 9-3 heading into Saturday’s game against Angelo State.

And the best thing about Adams is his huge upside.

A 6-9, 218-pound specimen who combines both strength and athleticism, Adams is still learning to play basketball the way it’s played in the U. S., but he has emerged as a scoring threat to complement Chris Bingle inside, and ECU’s hard-nosed post trio of Adams, Chris Bingle and Brandon Bingle teams with guards Jason Thomas (25 points and 10 rebounds against Abilene after being chosen North Player of the Week last week for the second time this season), Terrell Carpenter (13 points per game), Dominique Williams and Jason Schroeder (45 percent from 3-point range) to provide the Tigers with their most balanced attack in years.