By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
It would be an understatement to say that the Marshall University men’s basketball roster has undergone change.
“A lot of change,” head coach Tom Herrion said last week during the Marshall coaches’ tour visit to Mercer County.
Gone is all-Conference USA guard DeAndre Kane, now an Iowa State Cyclone. Gone are D.D. Scarver and his 11.9-point average. Gone are forward Jamir Hanner and guard Chris Martin.
Three contributors, Nigel Spikes, Dennis Tinnon and Robert Goff, finished their senior seasons in March.
Herrion is focused, however, on the opportunity for the rest of the squad, and for his new recruits.
Asked about the transition, he said, “First of all, it excited me greatly. In a lot of instances, people are resistant to change; it makes them uncomfortable. I’m really excited about the changes we’ve made — a lot of new faces, new blood, new energy, new enthusiasm.”
“We still have a good core of guys.”
He began with Elijah Pittman, a 6-foot-9 forward who averaged a team-high 16.9 points per game.
“Pittman, we feel, is a player-of-the-year type of guy, and he had a great junior year,” Herrion said. He said freshman guard Tamron Manning “had a great freshman year, as he got more experience.” Redshirt freshman DeVince Boykins also got valuable playing time.
Then he turned his attention to what he called “a cast of new characters.”
“The two big guys that haven’t had an opportunity to play, (Yous) Mbao and (J.P.) Kambola, have made great strides. They’re going to have an opportunity; we’re going to rely on them a little bit more.”
Mbao, listed at 7-foot-2, was born in the African nation of Senegal, while 6-9 sophomore Kambola is from the Canadian city of Toronto. He spent 18 days in China last month on a touring basketball team.
Also waiting in the wings for the Thundering Herd is Tyquan Goard, who helped win a state title for George Washington High School in Charleston in 2011. He had to sit out last season after transferring from Ohio University, where he played in 29 games for the Bobcats’ 2012 NCAA Sweet 16 team.
“He got the benefit of practicing with us, and we’re excited about him,” Herrion said.
Kareem Canty and Ryan Taylor, who were academically ineligible for the last campaign, are gearing up for competition.
“We think those are two impact players, right away,” the coach said.
He was looking forward to having three junior-college transfers enroll in summer school this year.
Shawn Smith, a 220-pound power forward, arrives from City College of San Francisco. Cheikh Sane, another power forward, played his last two seasons at Snow College in Utah. Justin Edmonds is a 6-4 guard whose season last year in a Toledo, Ohio, community college was cut short by a knee injury.
Herrion said on the Marshall website, “Justin and Cheikh and Shawn all have similar qualities. They played at highly successful and winning programs and they are terrific people.”
Canty’s inability to play at point guard in the last campaign was a problem for the Herd, which Herrion has been busy addressing.
“As late as it happened, it forced us to kind of struggle a little bit,” he said last Tuesday.
“We signed (Jaylen) Brantley, the point guard out of Boston, about two or three weeks ago,” Herrion said. “He’ll go to the wire, whether he can qualify or not, but he’ll enroll in school, no matter what. (He’s) a dynamic player who can really shoot the basketball.”
“We were fortunate that we were able to get Manning a lot of experience there as the season unfolded, and we’ll benefit from that as we move forward.”
“You can never have enough point guards, and we found that out last year. We’ll try to put ourselves in a position so it doesn’t impact us as much in the future.”
Freshman Austin Loop and Manning both achieved a spot on the C-USA Commissioners Honor Roll this spring for finishing the season with a grade point average above 3.0.
At the spring basketball banquet in April, Mbao received the Cam Henderson “Mr. Marshall” Award and Loop was given the Mike D’Antoni Academic Award.
Herrion is looking forward, not back.
“We feel confident in the guys we’ve been able to attract, and the staff that’s done a really good job,” he said. “You’ve got to have really good players, and good people, representing our institution. So we’re excited about it.”
And as far as the future goes, he said that input received at events like the coaches’ tour is not something wise coaches can ignore.
“Sometimes maybe someone may mention the name of a young man, a possible prospect,” he said. “It’s one of the cardinal rules in recruiting. You always follow up ... . The next great one is on the horizon.”
— Contact Tom Bone at