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Marshall basketball: Herd’s Tinnon ruled eligible

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dennis Tinnon will get one more year to rack up double-doubles for the Marshall men's basketball team.

MU announced Tuesday that Tinnon, a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 10.2 points and 10.0 rebounds for the Thundering Herd last season, was granted a final year of eligibility by the NCAA. Marshall had been fighting for that year in an long and unprecedented case, and got news of the decision Tuesday at 3 p.m.  

"It's a unique story and he's a terrific young man," Coach Tom Herrion said. "My mantra for the last couple months is that, lots of times in these cases, you're going to the NCAA and you're begging for mercy. This time, we were begging for justice, and I think it was served (Tuesday)."

In a statement from MU, Tinnon said he was excited and grateful to continue his collegiate career.

"Words can't describe the feelings I have after hearing the news," he said. "As painful as it was at times due to the long process, I had faith in (everyone) that they were presenting the best case possible."

Tinnon, from Green Bay, Wis., did not complete course work for his high school diploma on schedule.

He was steered in 2007 toward Williston State, a North Dakota junior college, to get his GED and start his college basketball career.

He never played or practiced at Williston State, and instead returned to Green Bay East High to get his degree and played two seasons at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

The NCAA said his eligibility clock started ticking when he enrolled at Williston State, but Marshall felt otherwise. Derek Gwinn, MU's associate director of athletics for compliance, said this was a situation never before seen, which made things more difficult.

"Usually, there's some type of precedent - what you need, and the type of people you need to talk to in similar cases," Gwinn said. "We didn't have any of that.

"Speaking with all the people involved, we had to make sure we made the extra effort and that no stone was left unturned," he added. "We had to make sure that the NCAA had everything possible."

Gwinn said the NCAA returned to Marshall once, making several requests for a significant amount of information.

Marshall also enlisted the help of Ropes & Gray, a law firm with offices from Boston to Shanghai. Herrion said the firm and Marshall officials worked so well together, it was worth the investment.

Tinnon, who turned 24 in December, also was worth the investment, Herrion and Gwinn added. It wasn't just for the player he is, but for the person he is as well. Herrion said Tinnon had a 3.0 GPA this past spring and will graduate either this December or in spring 2013.

"The totality of his story is so unique," Herrion said. "He's using basketball to make his life better. He has a lot of things on his list that he wants to accomplish in life."

The news is a shot in the arm to the Marshall men's basketball team. The Thundering Herd finished last season 21-14, reaching the Conference USA Tournament final before losing to Memphis 83-57. The Herd lost to Middle Tennessee State in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament, 86-78. With Tinnon eligible, three starters from last season return.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712.


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