Marshall Men's basketball began practice this week for the 2013-2014 season.
After finishing last season with a 13-19 record, there were not many positives to look forward to this season for Marshall Basketball. But the Herd is a team of newcomers mixed with just a few returnees. Counting graduations and departures Marshall only returns six players from last season and mixes them with nine newcomers. Marshall Head Coach Tom Herrion said he likes the mix of guys he has.
“I know how far we have to go, we’ve got a lot of areas that we have to become really good at and that’s going to happen over time, but I can assure you the one thing I’m confident about as I sit here is the fabric of our group. They’ve really displayed great attitude, pride and willingness,” Herrion said.
One thing that will help the Herd with its inexperience is a new NCAA rule that allows teams to start practice earlier. Marshall officially began practice last Friday, almost two weeks earlier than past seasons. The new NCAA legislation permits 30 days of practice in a 42-day period before the first game. The Herd’s first game is November 8th against South Carolina State.
“With this new start date it’s been good for me as a coach because it’s really forces you have to a little bit better management of your practice situations. With the move up of the time you get 30 practices in roughly a 42-day window and I think it’s good because we’re really not going to go no more than three days at a time, at least for the first three or four weeks without a day off,” Herrion said.
It’s not just starting practice earlier that has the Herd encouraged though, a late summer trip to Canada to play in NCAA exempted games against Canadian Schools has given the Herd needed experience in game situations. Herrion said these added experiences and a line-up of guys with more versatility will allow them do some different things offensively and defensively.
“I think what you’ll see most is our level of extended aggressiveness, we’ve been more of a team that’s played you purely in the half-court defensively. I think you’ll see both in makes and misses defensively our ball pressure point of pick-up will be much higher,” Herrion said.
What that all means is guys like freshman point guard Kareem Canty will be applying full-court pressure to the man with the basketball. Canty sat out last year when he didn’t qualify academically. Canty said he’s looking forward to an aggressive playing style.
“We get to run and jump, we get to run and go, if we can get a stop easy, we can get easy dunks and layups, easy baskets will help us offensively,” Canty said.
Senior forward Elijah Pittman is the leading returning scorer for the Herd at 16 points a game. He echoed coach Herrion’s sentiment, saying versatility will be the key for the Herd.
“There is going to be certain games where we need four guards on the floor, there’s going to be certain games where we need three bigs on the floor and some people are going to have to play positions there not use to, but there is a lot of people on this team that can do that,” Pittman said.
Pittman said with schools like perennial Conference USA power Memphis leaving the conference, it’s time for the Herd to step up.
“When someone leaves the kings chair or the throne they have to pass it down to somebody and I feel like we need to be the team that they pass it down too, we need to be that big time school,” Pittman said.
Pittman and the Herd tip off exhibition play October 28th at home against Concord at 7 p.m.