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Chuck Landon: Amayo got big-time start to his MU career

Jan. 02, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Kelvin Amayo has played only three minutes in his collegiate basketball career.

A mere three minutes.

Yet, Marshall's newly eligible freshman guard already has one of the most remarkable claims to fame in college basketball.

Amayo played the first minutes of his NCAA career in, perhaps, the most revered venue in all of collegiate basketball, Rupp Arena, against the defending national champion, the University of Kentucky.

Top that.

Can there possibly be a more memorable debut?

"No, there can't be," said Amayo with a grin. "I don't think anybody can beat that one."

Yet, the 6-foot-4 guard insists there were no butterflies fluttering around in his sturdy 210-pound frame when he came off the bench to play the final three minutes of Marshall's 82-54 loss to Kentucky on Dec. 22.

"I really wasn't nervous," said the Newark, N.J., native.

"It was late in the game. But I played against Kentucky's players all my life in AAU, so I knew them.

"I knew they were freshmen and I'm a freshman, although I'm a little older freshman. I really wasn't scared. Even if I had come in at the beginning of the game, I still wouldn't have been scared because I played against them my whole life."

Notice the calm composure and low-key self-confidence?

Those are the much-needed attributes Amayo brings to Marshall's turbulent point guard position.

Yes, point guard.

Despite resembling a linebacker -- sorry, Doc Holliday, Tom Herrion saw him first -- Amayo really is a point guard.

"I have been playing this position my whole life really," he said. "If we had a little guard I would probably move to the two (shooting guard), so I could play both positions.

"But at prep school, I played point guard all the time."

Amayo was referring to NIA Prep, where he averaged 20 points, six rebounds and five assists while leading his team to a 26-7 record and No. 6 national ranking.

Yet, Herd fans still will be surprised when the large, economy-sized point guard makes his home debut against Delaware State at 7 p.m., Wednesday, in the Henderson Center.

"Point guard is my true position," said Amayo. "My size is why I get a lot of mismatches. People say, 'He can't do this or he can't do that.' But, in reality, I can really do that. I can pass, I can shoot ... I can do a lot of stuff. I'm versatile."

Besides all that, Amayo can defend. That's what has caught Marshall coach Tom Herrion's eye. When star guard DeAndre Kane returns from his broken hand, the Herd will have a pair of 6-4 guards who are tough, physical, man-to-man defenders.

Until then, it's simply a matter of Amayo getting comfortable. Fortunately for Marshall, a 10-day break between games and the 10-11 practices took care of that.

"The two-a-day practices were tough in the beginning," said Amayo, "but they helped me a lot. It showed that I had to be really dedicated to play this game. I have to have the focus. I've got to watch before I just go and do things.

"And it allowed me to learn the offense. Now, I know the majority of the plays."

The irony is his debut came against the defending national champion Wildcats, but his encore is against lightly regarded Delaware State.

"Whether we're playing Delaware State, Kentucky, Syracuse ... no matter what team," said Amayo, "we still have to perform. So, it doesn't matter."

He's going to fit right in.

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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