MU's DeAndre Kane ranks 10th in the nation in assists.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - When Marshall's basketball team convened for its first October practice, there were several things the Thundering Herd didn't expect.On the dark side was an 18-loss season, one for which the Herd will try to atone this week at the Conference USA tournament in Tulsa, Okla. Ninth-seeded MU plays No. 8 Tulane at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at the BOK Center.On the brighter side was DeAndre Kane's ability to take over as the full-time point guard after the unexpected ineligibility of freshman Kareem Canty."When you're in the top 10 in the country in assists," said MU coach Tom Herrion. "I said this before - I don't think anybody ever dreamt that they'd say that about him before this season. He's shown more of his abilities."C-USA coaches noticed that as well, naming the junior from Pittsburgh second-team all-league for the second year in a row. Kane won the program's fourth second-team honor since 2006, and the 10th on either second or third team.The teams were released Monday.That Kane wasn't a first-teamer, as expected in the preseason picks, may be as much a function of the Herd's 6-10 conference record as the considerable talent in the rest of the league.
The C-USA first-team honorees were Dwayne Davis of Southern Miss, Josh Davis of Tulane, Maurice Kemp of East Carolina, Joe Jackson of Memphis, Isaiah Sykes of Central Florida and TaShawn Thomas of Houston. Kane joined ECU's Miguel Paul, Tulane's Ricky Tarrant, UCF's Keith Clanton and Alabama-Birmingham's Rod Rucker on the second team.The Memphis trio of D.J. Stephens, Geron Johnson and Adonis Thomas joined Texas-El Paso's Julian Washington and Houston's Joseph Young on the third team.Kane was right at 10th in the nation in assists, and that was before his average jumped to 7.1 His 192 assists over 27 games are seven more than East Carolina's Miguel Paul (who also played 27), and they are 1-2 in the C-USA rankings.Kane had some tough games - 11 turnovers at Southern Mississippi and eight at Tulane come to mind - but he has had seven double-digit assist games and turned in a triple-double in an overtime loss at Hofstra. He also leads the league with 37.19 minutes per game, 1.35 above the nearest player.
For the most part, it's tough to pin the Herd's troubles on him, and league coaches clearly recognized that. For whatever role he plays next year, this experience should make him better."He's just tried to be steady, consistent in his approach, attitude," Herrion said. "and I think, for the most part, his work ethic in practice. He's bringing it every day."Kane ranks 10th in the league in scoring (14.9), third in steals (1.81) and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.71). Career-wise, he is 15th in school history in points (1,474), ninth in assists (419) and 10th in steals (128).Don't forget, he can rebound a little bit, too - he needs three to hit the 500 mark in three years, not bad for a guard.
Then again, Kane could play forward as well - and has had to on defense. One of the better spectacles, Dennis Tinnon tells, is watching Kane check power forwards."Most of the time, when you - a big man 6-8, 6-9 - and then you have someone 6-4, 6-5 on him, [you think] 'I'm going to kill him, he's too small,'" Tinnon said. "But once you try to bump him and he ain't going nowhere, he gets that knee into you, 'What's going on?'"And then you'll really find out, because you start missing." C-USA will name its All-Freshman and All-Defense teams today, as well as the Defensive Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year.The Player of the Year and the Gene Bartow Coach of the Year awards will be unveiled Wednesday, just before the tournament begins.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org or at twitter.com/dougsmock.