Marshall basketball: Herd prepares for life without Kane
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The news hit Marshall's men's basketball players out of the blue, as did the sight of teammate DeAndre Kane, a preseason all-Conference USA selection, wearing a cast on his right hand.
That hand injury leaves the Thundering Herd without its top scorer and one of the top assist men in Division I for an indefinite period. Saturday's 2 p.m. game at the Civic Center versus No. 11 Cincinnati (CBS Sports Network) will be the team's first step forward with Kane on the shelf. Marshall Coach Tom Herrion didn't discuss the injury, but said the rest of the roster will have to fill in where Kane is missing.
"We just have to have the next man ready," Herrion said. "Guys are always seeking more opportunities to play. Now they're going to get it. We've got to make sure they're prepared."
Kane's absence robs the Herd (6-4) of his 15 points per game and his 8.5 assists per game, the third-best average in Division I. It also robs Marshall of its primary point guard. Freshman Kareem Canty could have been there, but the NCAA deemed him academically ineligible last month.
Herrion said ball-handling duties primarily will fall to sophomore Chris Martin and freshman Tamron Manning, while redshirt freshman DeVince Boykins also could slide into the role if necessary. Martin started over Kane at the point in Marshall's last game, a 69-63 comeback win over Coppin State. Herrion said that was a coach's decision. Martin played just seven minutes in that game.
The sophomore said that, with his evolved responsibilities, he has to play more like he did in the beginning of the season, when he played no fewer than 23 minutes against Longwood, Villanova, District of Columbia, South Dakota State or Hofstra. He averaged nine points in those games, but scored only seven total points since.
"I have to step my game up," he said. "It's that simple. The beginning of the year, I was playing well. I haven't been playing up to my potential the past couple of games. That's part of playing basketball. You have to bounce back."
Manning and Boykins' playing time leaped exponentially against Coppin State. Manning had played just 11 total minutes and Boykins played just three before the game against the Eagles. That night, Manning played 12 minutes and Boykins played 11.
"You only gain experience by going through experience," Herrion said. "You've got to play. They did a terrific job against Coppin and really earned the opportunity. Through other circumstances, they'll likely have the chance to play more."
Manning felt he did well with his extended playing time. He had an idea he'd see more action than usual against Coppin State, but didn't know he'd take the floor in the first half. Moving forward, the freshman said he had to approach practice with a slightly different mentality. He wanted to boost confidence, both his self-confidence and his teammates' confidence in him.
"Going out there and playing against Coppin State, I think I gained a lot of confidence, showing them I can handle the ball and get us into the offense," he said. "Going against Cincinnati, we're preparing for a good team and I know they'll need me to handle the ball and not turn it over."
Roles won't change solely at one position. Players will have to pick up the scoring slack, which could mean a greater focus on guard D.D. Scarver and forward Elijah Pittman. Herrion said the team will have to play more to its strengths. That could mean greater focus down low with forward Dennis Tinnon and center Nigel Spikes. The Herd has won four of its last five games and the schedule only gets tougher, with Cincinnati on Saturday, Savannah State at home Dec. 19 and Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Dec. 22.
What all the players must do, Herrion said, is embrace the opportunities they'll now have and take advantage of them.
"You don't want guys to knock on the door," he said. "You want them to crash through it."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.