Marshall basketball: Herd slimming down for up-tempo style

HUNTINGTON — Marshall’s basketball team is on hiatus in a period between summer workouts and the start of fall semester. Conceivably, those players could gorge on food and put on some weight.

Don’t worry, coach Dan D’Antoni says. That weight’s coming off. It will have to.

D’Antoni’s up-tempo philosophy — no Big East grinding here — demands top-level conditioning, possibly the most rigorous since the Thundering Herd has had a weight room.

Most fans haven’t seen a difference, as basketball practice doesn’t start in full for two more months. But D’Antoni has, and he likes it.

“A lot of weight lost,” he said. “I think if you read in the NBA papers today, they’re talking about LeBron [James] and they’re showing the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures. If you look at our kids, you’ll see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures, faces have trimmed down and bodies are getting ready to play the game the way it’s going, which is quicker pace, quicker movement. It requires you to be in tip-top shape.”

D’Antoni fielded questions on his program Thursday, a day after the Thundering Herd’s full 2014-15 schedule was released. His two Serbian recruits were among the topics.

Qualifying academically isn’t a problem, he said. Immigration is the issue now.

Still, he thinks all will be well and the pair should be on campus about Aug. 21 or so, just in time for the start of the fall semester.

Through the efforts of new MU assistant Shawn Rigot, the Herd landed Aleksa Nikolic, a 6-foot-5 point guard, and Milan Mijovic, a 6-9, 260-pound forward. Mijovic, whose first name is prounced “MILL-un,” was the later pickup.

“When you look at him, he looks like a young bear, not a big one,” D’Antoni said. “He hasn’t physically matured. What I saw in him is he’s got very good hands, his shot can go all the way out to the 3-point line. He can pass. He feels the defense, he can make quick decisions 

“He’s been working on conditioning, and he’s become more of a runner. But he’s very, very strong and he’s got a good feel for the game. It’s easy to play with him.”

D’Antoni said Mijovic is 20 and Nikolic is 19, not too old for freshmen.

“I think you’ll be surprised how well they fit in with the students here, then come on the floor and perform,” D’Antoni said. “That’s the kind of kid I want.”

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D’Antoni told an old story of his high school coaching days at Socastee High in the Myrtle Beach, S.C., area. He told how he decided to go up the coast to Wilmington, N.C., to take on E.A. Laney High.

Laney is a basketball school of some note, playing in Michael J. Jordan Gymnasium. Yes, the original No. 23 (or No. 45 for those few years) — except His Airness didn’t enjoy a great start to his prep season, failing to make the varsity as a sophomore.

“After I got up there I asked myself, ‘What am I going to say to the coach that cut him?’ ” D’Antoni said. “When I shook his hand, he asked me, ‘Why did you come all the way up here to play us?’ I said, ‘I figured I could beat the guy who left Michael Jordan off his team!’ ”

Reach Doug Smock at, 304-348-5130 or follow him at

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