Patience pays off for Herd's Boykins
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - College basketball has morphed into a full-speed-ahead sport when it comes to playing time.
Young players want as much as they can as soon as they can, because it can mean a quick path to a multi-million dollar contract. Of the 29 college basketball players taken in the 30 picks of the 2012 NBA Draft's first round, 18 were either freshman or sophomores.
Yet while many players want to race toward maximum minutes, Marshall redshirt freshman guard DeVince Boykins took a different approach. He essentially shifted his basketball career into neutral for a year.
By taking that redshirt last season, Boykins postponed his debut to this fall. But he said the experience he gained and growth he saw in that year was worth it.
He wasn't always that convinced, though. When you're 18 years old, won a state championship at East Rutherford High in Bostic, N.C., as a senior, averaged 17 points, 13 rebounds and four assists in doing so and turned down offers from Miami, Marquette and South Carolina to attend Marshall, long-term visions aren't the first thing on your mind.
At first, Boykins wouldn't even consider redshirting. Yet as time went on, and he talked to both Marshall Coach Tom Herrion and his father Robert, he came around to the idea.
"It may have been the night before the first official game, and (my father) told me, you have to think long-term," Boykins said. "I talked to Coach, too. Sitting down and talking to him, he said short-term, yeah, it's gonna hurt. But in the long run, he felt it would benefit me a lot more, because I probably wouldn't have gotten the minutes I wanted to get last year."
Herrion said that conversation, one he's had with players everywhere he's coached, isn't always easy, and neither is getting a teenager to look past the present. Yet it seemed the minutes Boykins likely would have played would not have been worthy of the year of eligibility he'd use up.
"You're honest with them about where they stand and more importantly, it's so hard to convince people to look long term," Herrion said. "His family and he made the decision, but we definitely had an opinion and all felt very comfortable that was the right decision to make."
Among last season's guards, Boykins would have fought for minutes with All-Conference-USA second-teamer sophomore DeAndre Kane and seniors Damier Pitts and Shaquille Johnson. Of the freshman guards that joined him last year, Justin Coleman averaged nearly 16 minutes a game before he was suspended and ultimately dismissed after playing just 17 games, and Chris Martin averaged four minutes a game.
Now Pitts, Johnson and Coleman all are gone and Boykins had a year to acclimate himself to college basketball without the pressure of keeping a spot in the rotation. And, as a redshirt, he could participate in exhibition games before the regular season began. Boykins now can look back at how important last season was.
"It's benefited me a lot, just gaining that experience over a year's time, practicing with the team," he said. "As far as being in practice and guarding, I guard DeAndre Kane every day. It's really helped me out defensively."
Boykins thinks he can help the team's defense with his versatility. At 6-foot-4 and a chiseled 211 pounds, he's a combo guard in linebacker's clothing.
"For me and my athletic ability, it just depends on the lineup," he said. "I feel I can play the 1, 2 or 3, primarily either the 2 or the 3. I can play the 3 mostly because of my athletic ability, me being able to guard guys taller than me because of my jumping ability."
Herrion said it's not just physical gifts that can help Boykins contribute this year. That redshirt year, and the experience of guarding a heralded player like Kane, allowed him to hone his mental game.
"He had a chance to go every day and learn our system," Herrion said. "He's a very bright player. He has a high basketball IQ, so he has a chance to be an excellent part of our program."
Boykins is ready to apply those physical and mental talents to the regular season. It wasn't easy watching his teammates take the court without him for months. Yet he realizes that was simply a short-term nuisance that could reap long-term benefits.
"That season went by fast," Boykins said. "I had fun last year just interacting with the team. It was a great experience and I'm ready to play."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.