Herd hoop squad embarks on 5-day tour of Canada
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- When the Marshall basketball team's bus crosses the border into Canada, you can click off another destination for Cheikh Sane, world traveler.
"Born in Senegal, lived in Paris for a couple of years. For the last two years, I lived in Utah," said the 6-foot-9 Sane. "So I'm from, like, all around the world."
His latest travels have led him to Huntington, where he is one of a boatload of newcomers on the Thundering Herd roster. And he is heading on the team's five-day, five-game tour of Canada, or a small slice thereof.
NCAA member basketball teams are allowed to take a preseason international tour once in a four-year span. As a bonus, they get 10 practices to prepare for those games, and that's not unimportant.
"I think the reward the guys from these last 10 days of practice is the fact they get to play five straight nights against different people," said MU coach Tom Herrion. "We're going to get some different situations, good, bad or indifferent, over those five games."
There isn't anything the Herd doesn't need to work on, with so much of the roster so new. A few players won't be on the trip - junior-college guard Justin Edmonds is still on the mend from knee surgery, Jaylen Brantley's initial qualifier status remains undetermined and Chris Thomas will not enroll until later this month.
Additionally, 7-foot-2 Yous Mbao will go on the trip, but will be limited. That means the inside game will essentially start from scratch.
That makes this weekend even more important for Sane (pronounced SAH-nay), who played for Snow College. He is one of three junior-college transfers on the trip, so much will be asked of him in these five days.
"He might be a little short for . . . he's a physical post [player],'' Herrion said. "He plays with his back to the basket, he's a center and big forward combination. He's a terrific rebounder, so he'll give us a presence in the post.
"Our makeup is different - we have three true post players in Yous, Sheikh and J.P., and then our other frontcourt players are really are just versatile, kind of hybrid forwards. We really like the makeup of our group, in that regard.''
The trip is limited to southern Ontario, beginning with a two-game stop in Windsor. The Herd takes on Algoma College at 7 p.m. Friday, followed by a game with the University of Windsor at 7 p.m. Saturday. Both will take place at UW.
From there, the team goes to London, Ontario, to play Western University at 3 p.m. Sunday. On Monday, the scene shifts to Hamilton, the sizable city between Buffalo, N.Y., and Toronto, to play McMaster University at 8 p.m. Monday.
The finale at 4 p.m. Tuesday, also in Hamilton, comes against A Game Hoops.
That will be an interesting game against post-collegiate players, some who have played professionally.
Herrion doesn't have a feel for these opponents as he will in the regular season. Winning is important, but so is getting the 10 or 11 players meaningful experience.
"What we've tried to put in is a foundation, more of base in its simplest form, both offensively and defensively," he said. "We're light years away from where we need to be, season-wise. With so many guys it's been a slower process, and we've known that, so it's going to be good to try to get them acclimated with the terminology, system, style.
"We're committed to play a different style, playing faster both offensively and defensively."
That suits Sane just fine, as he visits another foreign land.
"I like to travel," he said. "It was a great experience for me to get out in Utah, then go to West Virginia, Huntington, start a new life."
Herrion said Elijah Pittman will indeed be on the trip. Pittman was indicted July 31 by a Cabell County grand jury of one count of misdemeanor battery in connection with an incident with another MU student early in the morning of Oct. 11, 2012.
A police report alleges the student suffered a broken nose, concussion and possible facial fracture after Pittman punched him.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.