HUNTINGTON — At 7-foot tall, Marshall center Goran Miladinovic has always stood out in the Thundering Herd frontcourt.
Now, the Herd needs Miladinovic to play bigger than ever.
As Marshall prepares for the 2021-22 season, former frontcourt presence Jannson Williams — the program’s all-time leading shot blocker — is gone, leaving a void in the role of rim protector for head coach Dan D’Antoni.
It is a chance for Miladinovic to step into the role and use his frame to be strong for the Herd down low.
“I definitely feel confident,” Miladinovic said. “I was always confident in myself, but this year especially.”
Teammates have also taken note of the confidence increase in Miladinovic early in the Herd’s practice sessions.
“Just in the first couple of practices, you can tell his confidence level is up,” Marshall guard Andrew Taylor said. “He’s talking more, he’s being more aggressive and getting to his shot. I think that’s something that we can build on and he can grow his game.”
This preseason, Marshall’s coaching staff — Dan D’Antoni, Cornelius Jackson and Scott Rigot — all have stayed on Miladinovic with every move, helping him to improve his craft because they know his importance to the team moving forward.
Miladinovic has also been paired against teammate Obinna Anochili-Killen on many occasions, which forces him to face a player with excellent size, speed and agility — much like what he will face in Conference USA throughout the season.
Miladinovic said he enjoys the challenge with Killen, whom he said also got much stronger this offseason to become a big inside force for the Herd.
“Obinna is definitely a hard worker,” Miladinovic said. “It’s always good to play against him because he pushes you to do better and he got a lot stronger. We all know how athletic he is.”
The knock in the past on Miladinovic has been his motor and being able to sustain it for long periods of time on the court.
The offseason weight program with Matt Donelson has been geared toward strength and stamina, both of which Miladinovic felt he made gains to sustain additional minutes this season.
Miladinovic’s gains in the weightroom has translated to a more assertive mentality on the floor with his vocal presence and communication increasing as well.
“Everybody could see that my body wasn’t ready before, but now it is,” Miladinovic said. “That has given me that extra confidence in this season.”
Miladinovic also said that, from an offensive standpoint, he worked on his shooting form during the offseason, looking to add a stronger mid-range game and 3-point ability to his post-up baby hook that has become somewhat of his signature move in the post.
Last season, Miladinovic averaged 3.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game — numbers he’s hoping to improve on this season.
“I’m feeling confident everywhere,” Miladinovic said. “Mid-post, even playing in the post and turning for a fadeaway or corner 3s, top of the key, everything. I feel comfortable with everything. I’m not going to shoot off dribble, yet, but maybe later this season, I’ll work on that.”
The preseason pick-up games showed Miladinovic that competition for playing time on the 2021-22 Marshall team was going to be stout with several guys looking to fill the voids left by the losses of Jarrod West and Williams.
“It’s definitely more competitive than it used to be,” Miladinovic said. “We could feel that even when we were playing pick-up even before we started practicing. We are all competing. Even our freshmen are pushing the older guys to do better because they are really competing really hard.”
With the dynamic switching to a roster with more size and length, Miladinovic feels Marshall can pose matchup problems for the opposition.
“I feel like that’s going to present a lot of trouble for teams playing against us,” Miladinovic said. “When you see us on court, there’s not much room for you to play because we’re so long and athletic. We can cover a lot of ground.”