HUNTINGTON — Over the last 10 days, Herd That has been at work on the court preparing for The Basketball Tournament. The goal is a $1 million prize for the last team standing, and that journey starts with a July 5 matchup on ESPN against Playing for Jimmy V.
Herd That knows it won’t be the most athletic team or the biggest team in TBT, but those on the team feel there is one thing they will use to their advantage as they head to Columbus early in the week. Many of Herd That’s players have chemistry from years of playing together at an elite pace, which is befitting of the TBT style.
Stevie Browning, Ryan Taylor, Jon Elmore, C.J. Burks, Rondale Watson and Ot Elmore all played together under Dan D’Antoni with the Herd.
For guys like Browning, they haven’t put on a Marshall uniform in several years now, but that doesn’t mean Browning has forgotten where his former Marshall teammates are at on the floor at all times.
“We all played so much with each other and built a chemistry to where we know what’s coming,” Browning said. “I know if I’m driving down the lane, I know exactly where C.J. is going to be, where Jon is going and I know exactly what big Ryan is doing.”
Five of the six former Marshall players are guards, which means Taylor — the team’s lone forward from Marshall — had to put his coaching skills to work.
Taylor, who is the head boys basketball coach at Huntington St. Joe, has spent much of the team’s training camp working with the new additions for this year, who were added to bolster the frontcourt.
Those players include former UAB front man Chris Cokley, former Middle Tennessee matchup problem JaCorey Williams, Arizona and Pittsburgh big man Ryan Luther and Texas Tech athlete Zach Smith.
Cokley and Williams are well-known from the days in Conference USA and each led their teams to upsets in the NCAA tournament. Smith and Luther each add elements that help establish spacing and matchup problems that Herd That want to take advantage of.
Elmore said the 10-day training camp’s intent was to get everyone acclimated to the style that each brings to the court — no easy task, considering the short window of time to prepare.
“We are all getting on the same page and getting an understanding for what everyone can do,” Elmore said. “We’re implementing some schemes here and there and we’ll see what happens after that.”
Herd That reports to TBT on Tuesday, meaning Monday is the last day of training camp prior to the team’s departure for the quarantined campus in Columbus. Of course, $1 million is on the line and the ultimate goal, but Browning said that getting to take the court again with the guys he calls his best friends is what also makes TBT something he looks forward to every year.
“It’s all you can ask for,” Browning said. “As a player, I played at high levels in Europe, but almost every night, you still dream about those college games, that college atmosphere and just the bond that you have with your brothers that you grow up with, really.
“You come in young and those are the guys that you’re battling with and growing with every day, so you get a special bond with them. To step back out on the court with them is a blessing. There’s nothing better than hooping with your best friends at a high level.”