Marshall basketball: Goff returns to court tonight
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall forward Robert Goff got a chance to do something this offseason that he hadn't since he began playing basketball as a junior at Broad Ripple High in Indianapolis, Ind.
He got to sit back and observe.
Granted, the circumstances surrounding that opportunity were anything but fun. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior was recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. So while the rest of his teammates got the full benefits of the brand-spanking-new NCAA rule that allows for eight hours a week of staff-supervised workouts, Goff had to hang back, sometimes in a knee brace, sometimes not.
Yet while he had to watch, he got the luxury of watching with Marshall Coach Tom Herrion, an opportunity Goff feels will help immensely this season.
Goff will be in the lineup when the Thundering Herd begins its season at 8 p.m. today with an exhibition game against Bluefield (Va.) College. The game, rescheduled from Tuesday, is the second half of a doubleheader that includes the Marshall women's prorgram team facing Concord at 5:30 p.m.
"When I was sitting out, I had to be right next to Coach Herrion," Goff said, "just sitting there and observing things, talking to him. That boosted my IQ a lot."
Herrion agreed that seeing the sport from a different vantage point, as spectator rather than participant, was a beneficial move.
"I think it gave him a better perspective," Herrion said. "He's a year older and more mature. He's a talented young man."
Goff wasted no time in becoming an integral part of Marshall following his stint at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. JucoRecruiting.com considered him the 18th-best junior college prospect when he arrived in Huntington and started 33 of 35 games last season for the Thundering Herd.
He averaged 6.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 24.3 minutes per game and led the Herd with 38 blocks. But when he aggravated his knee in May, Herrion and Goff decided on arthroscopic surgery.
Rehabilitation wasn't easy for Goff, but it gave him a chance to tinker with some things. He could work on bumping up both his field goal percentage (42.6 percent) and free-throw percentage (43.6 percent) from last season. He also could work on aspects of his game that could make him more multi-dimensional.
"It was tough, but it also allowed me to develop my jump shot more and work on my ball handling, stuff like that," he said. "I can be more of a stretch-4 now."
Redshirt freshman guard DeVince Boykins said that versatility should help improve the entire team. If Goff can become more effective on the wing, it could mean better looks for everyone on the floor.
"Not only in the post but out on the wing, he's extended his game to where he can shoot the 3-ball occasionally," Boykins said. "That's a part of Rob's game, just having the defenders who can't guard guys on the wing. All in all, I feel like Rob is going to help us just coming back and just being in the lineup."
Goff is done being a bystander.
He's ready to return to the court and help Marshall reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the Herd lost in the 1987 tournament's first round.
He helped the Herd make the NIT for the first time since 1988, but knows no one will be satisfied until the team takes one step higher. Goff is just happy he'll be in the mix when the Herd tips off tonight.
"It was hard at first being out all those months, rehabbing and doing all those things," Goff said. "But I'm glad it's here."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.