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Chuck Landon: Pittman can make Herd go far in tournament

Mar. 13, 2013 @ 12:12 AM

TULSA, Okla. — Want better gas mileage?

Buy a hybrid.

Want more mileage from a collegiate basketball player?

Recruit a hybrid.

That's what Marshall's basketball program did when it signed 6-foot-9 Elijah Pittman.

"With his versatility," said Herd coach Tom Herrion, "he's a hybrid kind of guy."

That's why Pittman gets more positions to the gallon than any other Marshall player. So far this season, the long, agile junior has played power forward, small forward and shooting guard.

Don't be surprised if Pittman plays all three spots again when No. 9 seed Marshall plays No. 8 Tulane at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday in first round play of the Conference USA Tournament here in the BOK Center.

"He's more of a guard than anything," said Herrion. "We knew that when we recruited him. His height and athleticism don't necessarily equate to a certain position. He's a very talented offensive player and he's only going to get better as we help him develop certain areas of his game that need developed."

That versatility also comes into play on defense. Although Pittman ranks second on the team in blocked shots with 24, he has guarded opposing point guards man-to-man and is on top when Marshall plays half-court zone.

"Defensively, we can move him around because of his length and he has good feet," said Herrion. "He's got really good feet."

So good, he has 24 steals to match his 24 blocked shots.

Geez, talk about talent. Is there anything this hybrid can't do?

Well, yes.

Despite his 6-9 height, Pittman forgets to rebound at times. One of those times was during Marshall's 91-75 loss to this same Tulane Green Wave on Feb. 6. In 37 minutes of playing time, Pittman scored a team-high 23 points, but didn't grab a single rebound.

Zero.

Marshall certainly can't afford another lapse like that tonight.

Yet, that's the typical twin-edge of a hybrid. High on mileage, low on horsepower. To Pittman's credit, he has improved that deficiency lately. After grabbing a meager four rebounds during a three-game span, Pittman has averaged 5.6 boards in Marshall's last seven games.

Now, it's merely a matter of putting all this inside-outside, all-over-the-court talent into one consistent package. Goodness knows, the length, athleticism and ability are all present and accounted for.

"You don't see many 6-9 guards in college," admitted Pittman. "There are a few, but not many. It's rare. I was always a guard when I was younger. But, then, I grew to 6-9 and everyone said, 'He's a big.' But I never let anyone tell me I was a big. I always told myself what I was."

What he was, is and always will be is a hybrid who can play inside or out equally well.

"I take pride in that," said Pittman, who leads Marshall in scoring with 16.3 points per game and in 3-pointers with 65. "That's a special thing and I really try to use it to my best."

Impressive, huh?

But wait until he adds a pull-up, mid-range jumpshot to his game.

"To be 6-9 and be able to do the things I do," said Pittman, "if I add a pull-up jumper to my arsenal, the sky would be the limit. I would be very hard to guard."

He already is.

That's why Pittman scored 23 points against Tulane the last time.

Tonight?

Marshall has to get even more mileage out of its hybrid.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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