HUNTINGTON - More than a week into their first preseason camp, Marshall's basketball newcomers are almost desperate to go play somebody, anybody. As one might guess, coach Tom Herrion and staff aren't so antsy. They've seen too much go wrong, seen the basketball go in too many strange directions, and they want more time to fix that. "We're zinging it, and it's hitting the maintenance lady and everybody else," Herrion said before practice Tuesday. "We've kicked it, we've punched it. It's a collective issue - we've got to slow down. We're playing too fast on the offensive end." That doesn't just go for freshman guards Kareem Canty and Tamron Manning, or junior-college forwards Elijah Pittman and D.D. Scarver, but all over the roster. The Herd has a few days, and more than a few long workouts, to get things ironed out. The team's next public display comes Monday in its exhibition against Bluefield (Va.) College. Tipoff time is 7 p.m. at Cam Henderson Center, with all seats $5 general admission. Marshall is coming off a 21-14 season, making the National Invitation Tournament field for the first time in 24 years. But the first NCAA bid in a quarter-century remains elusive, and Herrion is going after it hard. But smartly. "We want to play faster this year, overall," Herrion said. "We've got too many guys playing skittish fast right now. We haven't even got to the situation where we can talk about true tempo in the game, etc. We've got to slow down in a lot of areas. "But we want to pick up the tempo. I think it suits our depth and our versatility and our athleticism, to try to extend the floor and create more tempo." Herrion said his newcomers hit a wall over the weekend as the Herd practiced double sessions. The coach said he has worked his third team harder than the previous two, and his newcomers believe it. Practice has presented all manner of adjustments for the newcomers. "My rudest awakening, probably, is realizing I'm not going to shoot too many layups anymore in a halfcourt set," Manning said. "Going in against Nigel [Spikes] and Yous [Mbao], you've got to shoot pull-up jumpers." Canty said of practices in general, "It's more of a grind than I thought it would be. It seems like practices go on forever." Herrion said his team is still searching for its identity, which is relentless rebounding and consistent defense. The Herd showed a lot of the former last year, but came up short in the latter. "There were times where we were really good defensively, but there were too many times we weren't good enough," he said. "Not that it didn't exist, but it was too hit or miss, and that's not good enough. And that contributes to going 9-7 in conference play." Which probably kept the Herd on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble, and why this October seems to be more important than those in recent memory.
As a reminder, general admission season tickets remain on sale at herdzone.com, or by calling 800-THE-HERD or 304-696-HERD. Those are $100 and cover all home games plus the Dec. 15 game against Cincinnati at the Charleston Civic Center. Single-game general admission tickets to non-conference games are on sale for $10. Reserved seating has been exhausted.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.