HUNTINGTON — Minutes prior to Wednesday’s game against Bluefield State, Marshall freshman guard Andrew Taylor sat in the stands about four rows behind the Herd bench by himself.
It seemed as if he was taking in the moment prior to tipoff.
Maybe that’s because, if Taylor has his way, it will be the last college basketball game at Marshall he will ever have to watch.
After sitting out the first semester following the denial of an NCAA appeal, Taylor is finally set to make his Marshall debut on Monday when the Herd travels to Morehead State for a 7 p.m. game at Ellis T. Johnson Arena.
“It’s been a long time,” Taylor said. “It’s almost been a year and a half now, just sitting up here watching. Every time I’ve watched my dudes play, I’ve seen that, ‘Man, I can do this for them or that for them.’ There’s just so many things I can do for this team and to sit up here and watch for that long, it’s sort of depressing.
“At the same time, I remember all the days that I was working after games after watching my guys play — all the days I put extra work in instead of just sitting here waiting. I think that made the time go by faster for me.”
Taylor was hoping that his debut would’ve come at the start of the 2019-20 season, having put in an NCAA request for immediate eligibility after transferring from Furman last year.
Ultimately, the request was denied for the freshman from Corbin, Kentucky, which left him sitting out the entire first semester under the NCAA’s transfer policy.
Marshall’s backcourt took on a definitive new look from the 2018-19 squad that featured three seniors — Jon Elmore, C.J. Burks and Rondale Watson — and there have been some growing pains in the early going as the Herd has struggled to a 3-6 start.
One of the main difficulties for the Herd has been turnovers, which have plagued them in seemingly every contest. For the year, Marshall is averaging 16.4 turnovers a game and has a negative assist-to-turnover ratio, which head coach Dan D’Antoni says needs to be corrected.
D’Antoni said getting Taylor on the court will essentially help remedy some of those turnover woes in time for the final push of non-conference play, which includes games against Morehead State, Eastern Kentucky, Northern Iowa and Duquesne.
The Herd’s head coach said Taylor is the final piece of the Herd’s 2019-20 puzzle and he expects things to have a better fit with Taylor in the lineup.
“Now, we’re going to put the pieces together and see if we can’t come out with a beautiful puzzle that shows a championship trophy,” D’Antoni said.
The scenario is not one that is unfamiliar to the Herd, who underwent a similar scenario when Jon Elmore entered the mix in the 2015-16 season following the completion of the first semester.
Marshall began that season 2-6 without Elmore, but went 15-10 with him in the lineup, which led to a winning season after a dismal start.
Such a comparison is a tough burden to put on the shoulders of Taylor, and D’Antoni said the goal is not to win immediately, but to win at season’s end, which means the Conference USA regular season and tournament.
“You don’t put one piece together and it’s all done,” D’Antoni said. “It’s going to take a while. We’ll get all the pieces and Andy will be a part of that. I think we’ll be happy with the picture we have at the end of it.”
Taylor reiterated that he is one piece to the Herd’s puzzle and his job as the point guard is to help those pieces fit as well as possible. That doesn’t include him going outside of D’Antoni’s plan.
“Instead of trying to do too much and trying to do my own thing, I’m just going to excel in the things he’s taught us to do since I’ve been here,” Taylor said. “If I do that, I’ll be fine.”
Taylor said he has envisioned what Monday night will be like on several occasions, and he knows that there will be emotions involved when he takes the floor at Ellis Johnson Arena in Morehead, Kentucky — just two hours from his home in Corbin.
“I’ve been fighting every day to get that feeling back,” Taylor said. “I’ll be a little nervous, but I’m more excited than anything. I’m just going to go out there and do what Coach Dan has taught me to do and see what happens.”