Players meet Dan D'Antoni
HUNTINGTON -- Marshall Thundering Herd men's basketball players who met their new coach Friday said they are excited to have him here.
DeVince Boykins, Cheikh Sane and Chris Thomas were among the players who attended Dan D'Antoni's introductory press conference Friday in Memorial Student Center.
D'Antoni, a Marshall point guard on National invitation Tournament teams in 1967 and 1968, said returning to coach the Herd was a lifelong dream. The 66-year-old native of Mullens, W.Va., was hired to replace Tom Herrion who stepped down after going 67-67 in four seasons, with an 11-22 finish in his final season.
He spent the past nine years as an NBA assistant coach for his brother, former Marshall point guard Mike D'Antoni, with the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns.
D'Antoni's previous head coaching experience was with the Marshall freshman team of 1969-70 that his brother was part of and at Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach where he won more than 500 games from 1975 to 2005.
"We got last year off our shoulders," Boykins said. "It's a new year, a new start. I'm looking forward to it.
"I'm excited to have him as coach. He's someone who has been here, played here. I hope the arena can get packed now."
Boykins, a rising junior guard from Forest City, N.C., appeared in all 33 games last season, starting 11 times. He averaged 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds.
At a team meeting D'Antoni told the players he'll push them to the best ability they have, Boykins said.
Sane, a 6-9, 225-pound forward who'll be one of next season's seniors, has the size of a professional player and said D'Antoni knows what it takes to get there.
"I'm excited to start working with him," said Sane, who averaged 3.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and had a team-high 27 blocked shots in 31 games (20 starts).
"We met in the locker room for a team meeting," Sane said. "We all want to win. I look forward to working with him in the summer and getting to know him."
D'Antoni was asked about when he plans to begin his work and responded with, "You don't know me very well."
He had already watched about 18 of last season's Herd games and saw an athletic team that needed to work hard on its defense, he said.
He said the court is 94-feet long and "we're going to guard every inch of it."
The new coach also said the words Marshall fans love to hear.
"We're going to run," he said.
He was the point guard on Marshall teams that averaged 85.5, 87.3 and 77.0 points in three varsity seasons and put up 119 against Nebraska in the NIT at Madison Square Garden.
D'Antoni addressed the situation of point guard Kareem Canty who was released from his scholarship April 11 and has already made a visit to Auburn University. Canty, the Herd leader in scoring (16.30 and assists (5.4), was an All-Conference USA third team pick and a member of the conference All-Freshman Team.
Canty is expected to make another visit to the University of South Florida.
"I think they lost the Canty kid," D'Antoni said. "I think he needs to go somewhere else, and that's good."
Marshall signed three players in November 2013, and the father of recruit Shane Hall said everything is fine on their end.
Hall is a 6-foot-8 forward from Johnson Central High School in Paintsville, Ky. The Eagles had a 26-7 season and advanced to the Kentucky Sweet 16 state tournament.
"We still stand where we always stood," his father, Brad Hall, said. "He committed to Marshall."
Hall averaged 17.4 points and 10.7 rebounds while leading the state with 4.9 blocked shots per game.
With his career total of 474 blocked shots, Hall is second in the Kentucky record book behind all-time leader J.R. VanHoose of Paintsville, a former Marshall player, with 541.
He was a finalist for the Kentucky Mr. Basketball award and an all-state first team selection.
Reporter Tim Stephens contributed to this report.
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