David Early has decided to keep the trend going.
What tendency would that be?
The one that involves Marshall University’s best basketball teams almost always being led by West Virginia natives.
That’s simply a fact of Mountain State and Thundering Herd life.
Early decided to climb aboard that trend when the Logan High School star shooting guard verbally committed to Marshall on Tuesday night.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Early isn’t the first Logan native involved with this trend, either. That honor goes to Walt Walowac, who starred for MU from 1950-54.
The list continues with Huntington’s Hal Greer and Leo Byrd in 1958, pacing a team that led the nation in scoring.
Next, there was Mullens native and current Thundering Herd head coach Danny D’Antoni leading MU to the 1967 and ’68 NITs as a feisty point guard. Little brother Mike D’Antoni came next, leading the Herd to a 23-4 record and the NCAA Tournament with his slick passing and ball-handling.
From 1977-81, another Mullens native, Greg White, ran Marshall’s show. Then, Beckley’s Tamar Slay was a phenomenal scorer for the 1998-02 teams. Logan’s Stevie Browning was a 2017 Conference USA All-Tournament team pick as a senior.
More recently, there were the 2017-18 and 2018-19 squads that won the first NCAA tournament game in school history in 2018 and then the CIT championship in 2019. They were led by a quartet of West Virginians: Jon Elmore (Charleston), C.J. Burks (Martinsburg), Jarrod West (Clarksburg) and Rondale Watson (Lewisburg).
So, who is next?
It’s not too Early to tell.
“That’s why we wanted him,” said MU coach Danny D’Antoni. “Put him with Obinna [Chapmanville High School’s 6-9 Obinna Anochili-Killen], who already has signed with us, along with Jarrod West and Jeremy Dillon [redshirt freshman from Mingo Central] and there’s that West Virginia leadership.”
Poca High School sophomore star Isaac McKneely would be the final piece of that intriguing Mountain State puzzle.
But for now the emphasis is on Early, who is averaging 26.2 points.
“He can really shoot the ball,” said D’Antoni. “He has that ‘wow’ factor.”
Early makes the sort of long-range, improbable, step-back 3s for which Jon Elmore was famous at Marshall.
But the linchpin to his commitment was Anochili-Killen.
“I’m really excited,” Early said during a telephone interview. “I can’t wait to get up there and get started. Me and Obinna are real close. We were just talking about this a couple days ago.
“That had a big role in me committing to Marshall. It’s knowing that me and him are going to go up there and take care of business.”
That is very attractive to both southern West Virginians.
“Yeah, we played all AAU together in the ninth and 10th grades,” said Early. “And, now, I can’t wait to go and play college with him.”
Early also had a hand in this commitment, however. Marshall had backed away from Early when his weight ballooned to 247 pounds and his attitude, along with his grades, seemed to be slipping.
But a transfer to Beckley Prep appeared to be just the wake-up call that Early needed. After playing about 10 games for the Swarm, Early transferred back to Logan High School.
The difference has been noticeable. He has toned his physique, which remains a work in progress, and now Early is receiving A’s and B’s in the classroom.
That’s why Marshall climbed back on his recruiting wagon.
“Oh, yes sir,” said Early, “it was an easy decision.”
There’s just something about that 304 area code.