Most collegiate basketball teams have only five starters.
Except Marshall University.
It has six.
I know, I know.
No team can have more than five players on the floor at any given moment. That’s a hard and fast rule. Yet, does the Thundering Herd have six starters?
It would be a disservice to Obinna Anochili-Killen to call him anything other than a “starter.” A sixth starter, perhaps, but a starter all the same.
Right, Danny D’Antoni?
“There’s no question about that,” said Marshall’s veteran coach emphatically. “He’s playing extremely well.”
So well, the 6-foot-8, 220-pound sophomore is playing starter’s minutes by averaging 23.0 minutes of playing time. Guess what? That ranks Anochili-Killen fourth on the team in minutes played.
Anyway it is examined, anyway it is sliced or diced, anyway it is diagramed, that makes Anochili-Killen Marshall’s “sixth starter.”
That’s why he is playing starter’s minutes.
“Yeah, and he will,” said D’Antoni emphatically. “We’re still working our ballclub as to who and when and how the rotations are going to be.”
But one thing is certain. Anochili-Killen is going to be a major part of the rotations. I mean, just look at what he has done in Marshall’s first three games. Anochili-Killen is averaging 12.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.0 blocked shots and 1.0 steals. He also is shooting .636 (14 of 22) from the floor and .875 from the foul line (seven of eight).
He ranks No. 3 on the team in scoring behind only Taevion Kinsey (17.7 points) and Darius George (13.7). He is No. 2 in both field goal percentage (.636) and free throw percentage (.875). He is No. 1 in rebounding at 7.7 per game.
And I saved the best for last.
Anochili-Killen’s 12 blocked shots are more rejects than the rest of Marshall’s team combined.
There’s impressive and, then, there’s that.
And, remember, he’s just a true sophomore. Anochili-Killen isn’t going to do anything but get better and better and better.
“He’s getting a better feel for the game,” said D’Antoni. “He’s getting around people. And he’s starting to understand how to play and the intensity that you’ve got to play with.”
Equally important, Anochili-Killen brings energy, effort and passion to every performance.
“Obinna and George,” said D’Antoni with a knowing grin, “are going to give you the juice.”
That’s precisely what Marshall will need at 4 p.m. Sunday when it hosts Jackson State in the Cam Henderson Center. After a tough 67-65 loss to Campbell in the Herd’s most recent outing on Thursday, Marshall certainly needs to get back on track.
So, what did D’Antoni tell his team?
“Same as I did for the last 50 years,” he said matter-of-factly. “Let’s go back out and get better and suit ‘em up again. It’s a long season. One win or one loss, this early? We’ve just got to get better as a ballclub.
“We have to have some people step up. If you’re a lead horse, you’ve got to play like a lead horse. So, we’ll find out what they’ve got in them. I’ve got full faith and confidence it will happen. It’s just a matter of time.”
Except for Anochili-Killen.
As Marshall’s sixth starter, his time is now.