Marshall basketball: Herd relishing summer practices
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- There's at least one NCAA rule that makes college basketball coaches and players happy.
The association threw colleges a bone this year by allowing basketball programs eight hours a week of staff-supervised summer workouts, with two of those hours allotted for skill instruction.
The players must be enrolled in summer school in order to participate.
Marshall men's basketball Coach Tom Herrion relished the opportunity to get his players in the gym this summer.
"In 20-plus years, it's been one of the best rules they've put into college basketball," he said. "It just makes a lot of sense. In the coaching circles, everyone's raving about it."
Two hours a week of skill instruction doesn't sound like much, but coaches and players love the head start that time has given them. It gives teams time to install things that, under the old format, they'd spend the first part of fall practices installing.
Now those fundamentals are ingrained in the summer and can be tinkered with in the fall.
"We start in the fall and then we have a game in a month or two," said DeAndre Kane, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior guard. "Now we can work on things like transition and running and how we want to play - whether we want to play fast or slow the game down, pick-and-roll defense or on-the-ball defense. We'll be able to do it earlier than we'd normally be able to."
Kane also loves the chance to work on his shooting under the eyes of his coaches. It's not just the number of shots he's able to take, but the ability to pick his coaches' brains to figure out what works and what doesn't.
"That's great because I have Coach (Mark) Cline," Kane said, mentioning the Herd assistant, a two-time Evans Award winner as the top boys basketball player in West Virginia and McDonald's All-American at Williamson High and shot 41 percent from 3-point range during his Wake Forest career.
"He can still shoot probably better than anyone on our team. It's great to have him out here to help me with pointers, to tell me when I'm not jumping, when I'm not releasing the ball right, when it's too far back or it's too far by my face."
For Herrion, the greatest benefits may not come from teaching plays and formations. He's not expecting pinpoint precision during these summer sessions.
His brow furrowed a few times early during Tuesday's practice, when there were some bobbles and mix-ups in fast break drills, but the intensity picked up to a level he liked by practice's end.
It's that intensity that he wants to instill in these workouts, especially with newcomers unfamiliar with Marshall's style, and Herrion said he's seen progress there. He also likes what he's seen in veterans like Kane and 6-foot-8, 225-pound senior forward Dennis Tinnon, how they've taken ownership of the team and grown as leaders.
Herrion also likes being able to talk with his players in a practice setting and feels it's easier for them to say what's on their mind there.
"Just the fact we have more communication and better communication with the players, day in and day out, it's invaluable in that regard," he said. "I think our kids are much more comfortable talking to us in this atmosphere or after it or around the gym."
Tinnon said that, with the coaches watching, there's been no problem with a lack of focus.
That's big this season, as the Herd is trying to earn an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 1987. They came close last season with an NIT berth, and these summer practices might be just the boost they need.
"We already know what we want to do this year," Tinnon said. "We want to be great. These practices give us an opportunity to do so."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.