Marshall basketball: Pittman, Scarver critical to success
HUNTINGTON - The Marshall men's basketball team figured junior college transfers Elijah Pittman and D.D. Scarver would be important additions to the roster this season.
"We recruited them to be guys we thought could play and help us right away," Thundering Herd Coach Tom Herrion said.
It didn't know just how important.
With injuries and ineligibility taking a toll this year, the Thundering Herd have relied on the two to fill more needs than thought. Their importance was evident from the season opener, as Pittman and Scarver have been fixtures in the starting lineup. Scarver has started all 13 games, while Pittman has started 11 of 13.
One thing both know, Herrion said, is how to put points on the board.
"Clearly, they've both been able to exhibit that they're natural scorers," he said. "They can put the ball in the basket. D.D.'s obviously more of a pure shooter. Elijah scores in a lot of different ways for us. We knew that when we recruited them, but they've done a very good job in that area."
That scoring ability helped when Herrion needed to juggle the lineup. Freshman Kareem Canty could have been the starting point guard, or at least would have played a large chunk of minutes, but the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the season. But having Scarver made Marshall more comfortable in moving DeAndre Kane from shooting guard to point guard, and Kane responded with 8.5 assists per game.
And when Kane was lost indefinitely before the Cincinnati game with a broken right hand, the two became Marshall's primary scorers. Scarver is tied with Kane for the team's best scoring a average (15.0) and leads Marshall in total points (195), while Pittman is second in total points (192) and scoring average (14.8). In eight of 13 games this season, either Pittman or Scarver has led the Herd alone in scoring or tied with someone as the game's top scorer.
Scarver, a 6-foot-4 Alabama native who transferred from Trinity Valley Community College in Texas, is more of a pure shooter. He leads Marshall with 35 3-pointers and hits 81.8 percent of his free throws, a luxury for a team that shoots a Conference USA-worst 58.8 percent from the line.
Scarver said he's always had a knack for making baskets, since before he was a first-team all-state selection at Jackson-Olin High in Birmingham, Ala.
"I've been a shooter all my life," he said. "I've been doing it for a long time and I try to get better every day. I have to make more shots and rebound more, but I'm getting there."
Pittman, a 6-foot-9 Kentucky native who came from Lamar State College-Port Arthur in Texas, has impressed crowds - and ESPN - with his explosiveness. One of his dunks versus Cincinnati made SportsCenter's top plays of that day. Teammates also have been surprised with his shooting ability. His 21 3-pointers are second on the team, and he's shooting 52.4 percent from the floor and 76.5 percent from the free throw line.
Whether it's down low or beyond the arc, Pittman said he tries to capitalize on whatever opening he can find.
"I just play basketball," Pittman said. "I just do what I can do. I'll play wherever I feel comfortable. If I feel comfortable shooting, I'm going to shoot. If I feel comfortable driving, I'm going to drive."
Herrion said Scarver and Pittman have to keep up their pace, as does the rest of the Herd. The team returns to the court at 7 p.m. Wednesday to host Delaware State, the first of two remaining non-conference games. The Herd (7-6) wants to wash from its mouth the sour taste of an 82-54 shellacking at the hands of Kentucky, and as essential as Pittman and Scarver have been, Marshall needs more.
"Everybody's got to do more," he said. "When you take an important player off any team as you are with DeAndre not being able to play, it's not one guy. Everybody has to collectively step up. We don't ask guys to play outside their abilities and do anything they're not capable of. I just want everybody, collectively, just do a little more."
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.