HUNTINGTON — Jon Elmore and Stevie Browning know a thing or two about pushing the pace on the basketball floor.
That pace is going to be pushed faster than they’ve ever done it.
Herd That — Marshall’s alumni-based team for The Basketball Tournament — convened in South Charleston on Saturday to start a 10-day training camp in preparation for the $1 million winner-take-all tournament, which begins in Columbus on July 4.
“One of the things that makes this tournament so special is that there’s so much work and effort behind the scenes that is put into this,” Elmore said. “We’re getting after it pretty hard for the next 10 days because No. 1, we’re playing on ESPN and, No. 2, you’ve got a million dollars on the line and you’re going up against other professionals. You don’t want to go in unprepared because they’ll make you look bad real quick.”
Herd That is scheduled to play Best Virginia — a West Virginia University alumni-based team — on July 5 in the first round of the TBT at Nationwide Arena.
TBT will be the first live basketball event since the coronavirus pandemic shut down all major sports back in March. For many of the players in TBT, getting back into shape will not be an easy task because there has been three months of limited training.
For Herd That, however, there is an added difficulty because of the pace of play that the team likes to incorporate.
It keeps with the Mike and Dan D’Antoni philosophy of getting the ball up and down the court quickly while firing long-range shots and pushing the pace consistently.
“Condition is for sure the most important thing with guys because no one has been playing games and everyone has been laying around waiting on this thing to pass,” Elmore said.
To do that, Browning knows the team has to be locked in when they go into training camp — one reason why they brought in a coach to lead the camp that has plenty of experience with that.
“We have to play fast,” Browning said. “That’s how we’re designed. It takes a lot of work. That’s one of the main reasons we brought Chris Duhon in to run the training camp. We know he’s going to push us and put us through some stuff to get us ready.
“With the coronavirus stuff and everyone being quarantined and unable to get out and do too much, we need this 10-day training camp just to get our wind back. This is a huge time for us.”
Elmore said the conditioning aspect is heightened due to the Elam Ending format, which has teams play to a target score instead of a set amount of time.
“It’s a battle from start to finish and you have to play your best basketball at the end of the game,” Elmore said. “That Elam Ending, every possession counts and you can’t be gassed at all. We’re lucky that we have more depth this year, but we’re going to need everybody to be in pretty good shape.”
That depth is especially vital in the frontcourt, where the team got some pieces to join Ryan Taylor in the battles down low.
Former Conference USA foes Chris Cokley (UAB) and JaCorey Williams (Middle Tennessee) arrived in Charleston on Friday to prepare for training camp, along with former Texas Tech post player Zach Smith and Pitt and Arizona big guy Ryan Luther.
For Marshall’s contingent of players, building chemistry with those guys is also vital to success.
“That is something that takes months to build for most teams,” Browning said. “We’ve got 10 days, so it’s time to get to work.”