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HUNTINGTON — Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni knew what to expect with a solid nucleus of returnees for the 2021-22 season.

However, D’Antoni wasn’t exactly sure what to expect with the learning curve of a solid freshman class that featured several players who could all step into roles quickly.

What D’Antoni has noticed is that those freshmen are playing well — so much so that they are pushing the veteran guys in practice.

In the frontcourt, forwards Chase McKey and Aymeric Toussaint — a pair of 6-foot-9 products — have especially been busy taking on the Herd’s veterans, which has resulted in a lot of eyes opening.

In Wednesday’s practice, Toussaint — also known as ‘AT’ — had to take guard another AT — Marshall guard Andrew Taylor — in a switch.

Taylor is one of the better shot-creators within Conference USA, but Toussaint was able to use his length and athleticism to stay in front of Taylor and force an errant shot.

The play did not go unnoticed.

As soon as the drill was over, Marshall veteran Taevion Kinsey took Toussaint to the side for encouragement.

“He’s one of the best you’ll face,” Kinsey said as he congratulated his young teammate. “If you can guard him, you can guard anyone. You won’t face better.”

McKey has shown the ability to create for himself with an aggressive nature and a high basketball IQ for knowing where guards are driving to and getting to the open spot that is not common among freshmen.

The result has been several plays in which McKey has slashed to the basket for a guard to find him for an easy finish.

It all brings a smile to the face of head coach Dan D’Antoni.

“I like our young guys a lot,” D’Antoni said after a recent practice. “With young guys, sometimes you never know, but these guys can really play. They’re getting after it out there.”

D’Antoni said one of the biggest adjustments for the young guys is not just the speed, but catching up in terms of on-court chemistry with the others who have played together in the past.

“Our young kids are learning and trying to find ways to fit in,” D’Antoni said.

Marshall has three other freshmen on the roster for the 2021-22 season in guard Kyle Braun, who is much like Taylor, and forward Wyatt Fricks, who are on scholarship. Creighton Thieneman, the younger brother of former Herd player Christian Thieneman, is also with the team and can fill it up from the outside also.

Braun and Fricks have been limited due to injuries, which has limited their ability to showcase what they are capable of.

D’Antoni said he expects to possibly get Braun back this week, which will add another guard into the practice rotation.

Fricks’ injury is expected to take several weeks and could result in him redshirting this season.

Marshall’s first preseason exhibition is scheduled for Oct. 31 against Davis & Elkins at Cam Henderson Center.

Grant Traylor is the sports editor of The Herald-Dispatch, who also covers Marshall athletics for HD Media. Follow him on Twitter @GrantTraylor.

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