HUNTINGTON — Danny D’Antoni could have signed a bunch of junior college transfers to help ease some of Marshall University’s men’s basketball team’s growing pains.
Then he could do it again in 2021 and 2023 and 2025, etc. The Thundering Herd coach said he much prefers building a program through recruiting high school players. He said the continuity and health of the program is more stable with players who are four- or five-year members of the roster than by filling the team with two-year guys.
“If you do it, you have to keep doing it,” D’Antoni said. “That’s why I don’t do it. It’s hard to build a program that way.”
Not that D’Antoni won’t take an occasional juco player. Mikel Beyers, a 6-foot-9 junior forward, came to Marshall from Mesa Community College. He is the only junior college transfer on the roster.
The Thundering Herd enters Thursday’s 7 p.m. home game with Charlotte at 8-9 overall, 2-2 in Conference USA. The 49ers (9-5) are sitting atop the league with a 3-0 mark.
D’Antoni said he likes to see a player develop over four seasons.
“I enjoy the process,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t get all, ‘Oh gosh, we lost one. We’re not going to win the league.’ In basketball, you can always win the league. All you have to do is win the tournament. We’re going to play right through that. I think we have a great shot. You put two or three games together real quick and you’re there and get into the NCAA tournament.”
D’Antoni watched from the first row of seats at Cam Henderson Center as his team shot around before a film session and practice. At one point, he walked onto the court and helped a player with his shot before returning to his seat.
“My satisfaction comes every day watching them try to be the best team they can be,” D’Antoni said. “These kids fulfill that every day that I walk out here. I think results come from that, not from wishing it or getting excited about it. The season’s a grind.”
Which team will represent Conference USA as champion in the NCAA tournament is long from being decided. D’Antoni said he likes his squad.
“There’s not a real, ‘OK we’re better than everybody’ team in the league,” D’Antoni said. “Potentially, we might be the best, but we’re not playing to the level we need to play to be the best, yet. We’ve missed too many opportunities. Our offense has given us opportunities that we haven’t taken advantage of. The new system with post-ups, being a little more patient to get the ball inside, better decision making.”
Seeing his young players improve gives D’Antoni satisfaction. Still, he wants to win.
“I looked out one time and we had four freshman and a junior on the floor,” D’Antoni said of a recent game. “Bobby Knight said the only good freshman is a rising sophomore. I think we’ve gotten quality minutes and we’re growing every game.”