HUNTINGTON - JP Kambola has turned into quite the world traveler, having scaled the Great Wall of China and scored a double-double in the world's most populous country.In two weeks, he will introduce his Marshall teammates to the Great (Sort of) White North, his homeland of Canada.All the while, he is trying to increase - maybe multiply - his 51 minutes he played in his first two seasons in a kelly green uniform.The 6-foot-9, 240-pound junior may or may not do that on coach Tom Herrion's radically revamped Thundering Herd, but Herrion has noticed the effort.
"He's got a great opportunity," Herrion said. "To his credit, you know his body's changed tremendously, he's in phenomenal shape. I think he gained good experience and confidence off the trip to China earlier this summer, where he played a lot over there."Now he's got more opportunity to get game experience, and that's the one thing he's lacked. We've got confidence in him; now it's going to be his third year in the program, so he's got an opportunity at a position we need some guys to step up at."Kambola played in an eight-game, 18-day tour of China sponsored by the Kentucky-based Reach USA sports ministry. In one game, he had 10 points and 14 rebounds.But his biggest effort may have been climbing a flight of steps at the Great Wall.
"We didn't get too far, but it felt like it was a long way," he said. "Different altitudes and all that."Kambola is one of just five returning players who saw action in the 2012-13 season. Former nonqualifer Kareem Canty, Ohio transfer TyQuane Goard and walk-on Austin Loop are familiar with the program, but there are several newcomers this summer - four who will play this winter, plus presumed nonqualifier Jaylen Brantley.Seven-foot-2 Yous Mbao (arthroscopic knee surgery) will make the trip but may not play, while Justin Edmonds (ACL tear, last season) will come aboard but not play. Brantley is practicing with the team, and Herrion is awaiting an NCAA ruling on whether he can take the trip. Chris Thomas is on track to enroll in the fall and join the program Aug. 26.The schedule is still in flux, but the Herd knows it will leave Aug. 16, eventually heading south from Detroit into Windsor, Ont. (no joke) and playing Algoma College and the University of Windsor. After that is a trip to London, Ont., with a probable trip to the Toronto area - Kambola's old stomping grounds."I want to show them how diverse the culture is, how diverse Canada is," he said. "A lot of them don't know much about it, just what they see on TV."With all the new players, this international trip - allowed once every four years - was made to order."In the spring, when I approached [athletic director] Mike [Hamrick] about it, we had to work through a lot of different things ... to make it work," Herrion said. "With this group, I thought it was really important to have the opportunity to make a trip like this."
BRIEFLY: Herrion said the Herd won't be playing full FIBA rules with that trapezoid lane, but the Canadian game features an NBA-type enlarged lane and a 24-second shot clock. The games will feature four 10-minute quarters. ... Under the new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative rules, players had to obtain passports to enter Canada. Formerly, a driver's license and a birth certificate was plenty of proof of citizenship. ... Herrion stayed in Windsor, at one of the designated coaches' hotels, when the Final Four visited Detroit's Ford Field.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.