HUNTINGTON — On Tuesday, Marshall freshman forward Chase McKey and veteran guard Andrew Taylor came together during practice.
In the particular drill, both had met up in defensive switches with the longer McKey backing down the scrappy but smaller Taylor into the post. Taylor countered by reaching in on McKey and trying to push McKey out of the post, which led to physical play down low.
After three times of the two getting tangled, things finally came to a head with the two as Taylor shoved McKey, testing the freshman’s resolve.
“I’m not scared of you, Chase,” Taylor said.
“Nobody’s scared of you either, man,” McKey fired back as head coach Dan D’Antoni stood between them screaming “It’s over!”
D’Antoni doesn’t want fighting in practice, but he’s not going to pretend to be disappointed in that exchange, either.
With his team mired in a five-game skid, the fight between the two teammates is exactly what D’Antoni wanted to see from his team.
For McKey, it’s the same kind of battle that D’Antoni’s consistently seen from him, which led the Thundering Herd’s veteran coach to insert him in the starting lineup last week.
With McKey, D’Antoni knows everything isn’t going to be perfect, but he’ll battle and bring energy to the floor when he’s out there, whether it’s against teammates in practice or in the surprise starting role when called upon.
“He doesn’t look out of place,” D’Antoni said. “He felt like he belonged, which is a good thing. He has the speed and the athleticism, needs to get stronger, obviously, and needs to keep working on his shot, but he has a sense for the game, understands the game.”
Seconds after their on-court exchange, McKey and Taylor exchanged laughs at the sight of the 74-year-old head coach trying to separate them.
In the next on-court drill, Taylor and McKey hooked up as McKey drove in and kicked out to Taylor for a 3-pointer that led to praise from the coaches.
It’s just another step in the progression for McKey, who is growing with each day.
McKey may be a freshman, but he is also the son of an NBA player — 15-year NBA veteran Derrick McKey — which means he’s been around the game and understands more than the average first-year college player.
“It’s serious business,” McKey said.
“[The experience] definitely helps and shows that my coaches believe in me, so it’s my job to go out there and play hard and make sure I impact the game.”
In that first start on Saturday, McKey was able to do just that.
His most impressive moment came early in the game when he took a pass on the baseline and beat Florida Atlantic 7-footer Vlad Goldin for a dunk that knotted the game at 6.
Other plays included a kick-out for a 3-pointer from Obinna Anochili-Killen that jump-started a 13-5 run as the Herd cut a 15-point deficit nearly in half before halftime.
McKey said his first start had plenty of ups and downs, but much like his team’s focus right now, Saturday was a building point for moving forward and seeing more success.
“I thought it went well,” McKey said. “Obviously, we didn’t get the win, which is most important to me, but I feel like we’re getting there.”
McKey and the Herd will again try to get over the hump on Thursday when they host North Texas at 7 p.m. at Cam Henderson Center.