With the season less than a month away, Marshall University’s men’s basketball team was projected to finish ninth in the Conference USA standings in the preseason selection.
The Herd finished last season with a record of 11-22, the same record it had in the 2013-14 season during Tom Herrion’s final season as head coach.
However, Marshall won seven out of its final 12 games of the regular season under first-year head coach Dan D’Antoni last season.
D’Antoni said he attributes the strong finish to his players beginning to grasp his offensive system and his preferred playing style.
“The players finally started to see the benefits of the system and how to work it,” D’Antoni said. “We’re carrying some of that success over. We’re not starting where we did last year, and we’re way ahead of where we were at this point last year. I think the biggest challenge for this team is that there are a lot of new faces to integrate with the rest of them so that we’re playing as one team. We’re not looking to play as individuals, and if we can come together and play as a team, we should be really good at the end of the year.”
D’Antoni said the team has several players who will help lead the Herd this season.
“Well, Ryan Taylor is a first-team preseason Conference USA pick,” D’Antoni said. “And James Kelly from Miami is a new kid. It’s his first year up for us, but he’s talented and exceptionally athletic. Justin (Edmonds) is back and (Austin) Loop is back, but this year more than last year we have players who can all get on the floor and be good. We’re deep and that really works to our advantage. We’re inexperienced since these guys haven’t played together a lot, but we think as the year progresses that we can come together and put a good team out on the floor.”
Taylor, a junior, averaged 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last season, which were both team-highs.
Aside from Taylor, Loop is a major scorer for the Herd as he went from averaging 3.2 points per game in his freshman season to 11.3 last season as a sophomore.
Kelly averaged six points per game and 3.7 rebounds per game in the 2013-14 season while at Miami, before he transferred and sat out last season in accordance with NCAA rules. However, Kelly shot 48.5 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from 3-point range in 2013-14.
Justin Edmonds was redshirted due to a knee injury in 2013, but the former junior college transfer performed well under D’Antoni’s system, as he averaged nearly 10 points per game last season.
Marshall begins preseason action at home Nov. 12 against Bluefield State College and Nov. 15 versus Newberry College. The Herd will then start its regular season when it travels to Knoxville, Tennessee to take on the University of Tennessee Nov. 19.
Josh Hughes can be contacted at [email protected]