Solid roster to welcome new coach
EL PASO, Texas -- Nobody knows how many games the Marshall Thundering Herd men's basketball team will win next season.
Nobody, except maybe athletic director Mike Hamrick, knows who will be coaching the team either.
What is known is that Marshall should have a solid group of players returning, barring defections following a head coaching change.
"We relied on so many new guys," now former head coach Tom Herrion said Wednesday night after a Conference USA tournament loss to Old Dominion.
Marshall announced Herrion's resignation Friday with two years remaining on his deal. He'll be paid a $571,000 buyout. Herrion didn't win enough games to keep his job. His record in four seasons was 67-67 overall and 28-36 in the conference.
The Herd finished 11-22 this season and was 13-19 in the 2012-13 season. Those 41 losses were a school record for a two-year span. The two seasons before that included a run to the C-USA tournament finals, a National Invitation Tournament berth and 21-14 record in 2011-12 following a 22-12 record and CollegeInsider.com Tournament appearance in 2010-11.
Hamrick said he has higher expectations for the program.
Assistant coaches Mark Cline, Josh King and Dino Presley are under contract until June and will be holding the fort.
This season's slide actually began in spring 2013 when all-conference guard Dre Kane and Herrion decided it was time to part ways. Kane completed his degree in summer school and transferred to Iowa State where he is leading the Cyclones into the NCAA tournament.
Throughout all the losses, the players stayed positive and tried to get better. The team lost 16 times in games decided by five points or less while winning just five of those.
"They showed unbelievable character day in and day out," Herrion said. "We had a lot of opportunities where we could have folded.
"There was a lot of heartbreak, disappointment and frustration."
Marshall began the season with just two seniors on the roster, and forward Elijah Pittman was dismissed after playing in nine games. Yous Mbao averaged about six minutes of action in 22 game appearances.Herrion said without Pittman, who averaged 21.4 points in his nine games, the Herd became the least experienced team in the country.
Problem areas to be addressed by the new coaching staff include free throw accuracy (62.2 percent), field goal shooting (43.2 percent), scoring defense (72.0 per game) and rebounding (minus-1.4 per game).
Freshman point guard Kareem Canty was an all-conference third-team selection. Canty was fifth among C-USA players in scoring with a 16.3 average and also averaged 5.5 assists, ranking third in the conference. His 538 points represented the third-most by a Marshall freshman all-time.
Canty and forward Ryan Taylor were awarded positions on the C-USA All-Freshman Team. Taylor scored 12.8 a game and averaged 7.2 rebounds. Taylor had seven double-double performances, but also fouled out of nine games.
Sophomore guard Chris Thomas, a junior college transfer, posted a 12.7 scoring average and led the squad with 38 steals. Shawn Smith provided 7.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. The junior college transfer forward ended his first NCAA Division I season with a 15-point, 10-rebound game.Tamron Manning and DeVince Boykins are slated to return as junior guards who produced 4.1 and 3.2 points per game respectively. Cheikh Sane was a starting forward as a 6-9 junior college transfer. Sane averaged 3.2 points and 5.0 rebounds. His 27 blocked shots led the team.
"They have laid a foundation with the youth we have -- talented newcomers like Shawn and some of the other guys that we have," Herrion said after the season-ending loss. "Now we've got to build off this and add some pieces."
An NCAA eligibility issue sidelined 6-9, 244-pound junior J.P. Kambola for the entire season. Junior Justin Edmonds took a redshirt year to rehab a knee injury. The 6-4 guard came to the Herd from Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio. Freshman academic non-qualifier Jaylen Brantley sat out the year. The 5-10 guard from Springfield, Mass., enrolled after playing at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass.
Marshall's recruiting class includes three players who signed in November 2013. Shane Hall, a 6-foot-8 forward, averages 17.5 points and 10.8 rebounds for Johnson Central High School in Paintsville, Ky. The 15th Region champion Golden Eagles (25-6) begin the Kentucky Sweet 16 state tournament with a Thursday game in Lexington at Rupp Arena. The Herd also signed 6-7 junior college forward Jay Johnson out of John A. Logan College in Carterville, Ill. Johnson, who is from Versailles, Ky., had averages of 7.0 points and 5.6 rebounds for a 20-11 team.
Benin City, Nigeria, native Henry Uwadiae is a 6-11, 235-pound center project from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Uwadiae is still developing and has three years of Division I eligibility. He averaged only 1.6 points and 1.8 rebounds in four minute a game for the Eagles (21-10).
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