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Marshall's Amayo finally joins team

MU basketball
Jan. 01, 2013 @ 12:17 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Kelvin Amayo's welcome to Marshall University men's basketball was a series of two-a-day practices after the team returned from a Christmas break.

Amayo became academically eligible Dec. 20 and played for three mop-up minutes in a Dec. 22 loss at the University of Kentucky. The Thundering Herd broke for the holiday following the game and resumed its practice routine Thursday night.

Head coach Tom Herrion's welcome back gift was two-a-days for all, including the newcomer.

"The second day I called my mother and said college basketball is crazy," Amayo said. "She said to just keep working hard. I was a little tired, but then I pushed myself. I've never been a quitter."

Amayo's cameo appearance at the end of the Kentucky game was his first action since March 2011 as a prep school player. He said it helped him regain the feeling that he was part of something.

Sitting out for a year was difficult, Amayo said. He spent the last several months arriving at Cam Henderson Center before Marshall practices to get shooting work on his own. Once practice started he took a seat or went to the weight room.

He's being groomed to help Marshall (7-6) at the point guard position, which has been a revolving door this season.

Point guard prospect Kaeem Canty was denied initial freshman eligibility before the season began. All-Conference USA junior Dre Kane moved over from the shooting guard position for nine games, but has missed the last three because of a hand injury.

Sophomore Chris Martin made two starts at point guard and freshman Tamron Manning got the call in the last two.

Kane could return soon, possibly in time for the beginning of C-USA play next week, and will probably go back to his normal position.

Herrion said the 10-day break between playing Kentucky and Wednesday's home game against Delaware State (5-8) was exactly what Amayo needed.

"This has been great for him," Herrion said. "He's making progress. I think his head is spinning with (learning) the terminology and the play calls.

"It's going to be a process and he knows that."

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound freshman from Riverside, N.J., provides good backcourt size and strength along with his scoring and play making ability.

Amayo said he is a versatile point guard who passes first, then tries to score.

He can also play defense.

"I'll be defending 94-feet trying to get steals and get easy points," he said.

Amayo attended NIA Prep School in Newark, N.J., averaging 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals on a 26-7 team that was ranked No. 6 nationally, and signed for the 2011-12 season with Towson University near Baltimore. Other schools recruiting him included Seton Hall, Providence and College of Charleston.

The NCAA denied Amayo's initial eligibility because of what it said was a lack of core classes at the prep school. His appeal for an NCAA eligibility waver was denied in September 2011.

He took the fall 2011 semester off after being ruled ineligible then enrolled at Marshall in January 2012. He also was forced to sit out the fall 2012 semester while getting the grades needed to become eligible.

"I chose Marshall because (Towson head coach Pat Skerry) coach Skerry and coach Herrion were good friends and I felt real comfortable here," Amayo said.

Amayo also knew Marshall sophomore forward Jamir Hanner from NIA Prep, Marshall sophomore center J.P. Kambola from their two years together at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J., and was familiar with Chris Martin from an all-star game they played in.

Amayo isn't on scholarship this year, but is in line for one next year.

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