By GARY FAUBER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.
Going into the 2012-13 season with one of its more talented teams and with a proven head coach in Tom Herrion, Marshall seemed poised to continue, and possibly further, its return to winning basketball. The NIT was all but a lock, the NCAA Tournament a real possibility.
Instead, the Thundering Herd never got on track, finishing with a 13-19 record and losing to Tulane in the first round of the Conference USA tournament.
What words does Herrion use to describe the frustration of last winter?
“I don’t, because I’ve moved on,” said Herrion, who will begin his fourth season as Marshall’s head coach Nov. 8 at home against South Carolina State. “We took a side turn that we didn’t (foresee), but our focus has been on making changes to correct that so that we don’t put ourselves in that position again.
“We obviously went through a challenging season, to say the least. I think a lot of people, including myself, learned a lot from that. We’re confident we’re in a positive direction moving forward.”
The disappointment of last season led to several changes in personnel. Eight players on the Herd’s 13-man roster did not suit up last year.
Four players are with other programs, including guard DeAndre Kane, a second-team all-conference performer who was told not to return. Kane, who averaged 15.1 points, 7.0 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game as a junior, is now at Iowa State.
Junior guard D.D. Scarver (11.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.5 apg) also left the program. Sophomore forward Jamir Hanner (3.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg) transfered to Buffalo and sophomore guard Chris Martin (3.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg) went to Mount Saint Mary’s.
Herrion said changes were necessary to move on and get back to building a program that had high aspirations after playing in the NIT in 2012.
“Most of it I did, and some of those are decisions I have to make,” he said. “Those are hard decisions. Some are easy decisions to make because guys make them easy for you. Change, sometimes people are uncomfortable because of the unknown. We had to change some things, and it started with personnel.”
Players who graduated include forward Dennis Tinnon (10.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg), center Nigel Spikes (5.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.9 blocks) and forward Robert Goff (4.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg).
Herrion believes the group that will represent Marshall this season will be an improvement in the chemistry sense.
It all starts with forward Elijah Pittman, a 6-foot-9, 219-pound senior who is the team’s only returning starter. Pittman is the top returning scorer in C-USA, which named the Covington, Ky., native one of its players to watch. He averaged 16.1 points and 4.2 rebounds a year ago.
Other returning players include centers J.P. Kambola andYous Mbao — a 7-2 Senegal native — and guards DeVince Boykins and Tamron Manning.
Among the newcomers are redshirt freshman guard Kareem Canty and freshman forward Ryan Taylor, both of whom had to sit out because of eligibility issues.
“They are going to be impact guys for us,” Herrion said.
Sophomore forward TyQuane Goard, a George Washington High graduate, sat out last season after transferring from Ohio University.
“TyQuane Goard has a chance to be a really good addition,” Herrion said.
Junior college signees include forward Shawn Smith (City College of San Francisco), junior forward Cheikh Sane (Snow College in Utah, by way of Senegal) and guard Justin Edmonds (Owens Community College in Ohio).
Kevin McNair, a freshman guard, is a well-traveled player who spent his senior season of high school at GW. He played his freshman and sophomore years at Dunbar High in Lexington, Ky., and his junior season at Owings Mills High in Baltimore.
“I really like our group in terms of energy,” Herrion said. “We’re going to be a lot younger (but) I think we have a greater passion for basketball now in our program. We’ve got some really talented guys. They just have to prove themselves. We have a lot of unproven guys.
“I think sometimes people look purely from the numbers standpoint that’s leaving for whatever reason, they look at that too much. We have great faith as a staff in the guys we have coming back and the ones we are adding.”
• • •
Fans will get a chance to see the men’s and women’s teams Thursday at the Green and White Scrimmage at the Cam Henderson Center. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. with the women’s team — including former Princeton High star McKenzie Akers — followed by the men at 7 p.m. Doors will open at 4:30 p.m.
Any fan who picks up season tickets at the event will be admitted free. Otherwise, tickets are $5.
Marshall souvenirs will be available to most fans.
— E-mail: gfauber@