Marshall basketball: Amayo learned something playing at Rupp
HUNTINGTON - Kelvin Amayo's first official minutes as a college basketball player came on one of the biggest stages in the sport. With the Marshall men's basketball team down 29 points to Kentucky at Rupp Arena, Amayo made his debut.
It wasn't a long stint, but the 3 minutes Amayo played at guard helped him realize something.
"I just felt like I belonged there," he said, "like I could play with anyone in the country."
Amayo will get his next chance for action with the Thundering Herd when Marshall (7-6) hosts Delaware State at 7 p.m. Wednesday. That follows a long break for Marshall, which hasn't played since losing to Kentucky 82-54 on Dec. 22. The Herd has stuffed as many practices as it could into that span, and Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said that should work in Amayo's favor.
"He's come in in marginal shape, as he's found out, but we've given him every rep every day," Herrion said. "He's making progress. I think his head's spinning - terminology, play calls, defensive assignments. He's getting there, but it's going to be a process. He knows that. We all know that."
His conditioning comes from having to sit out due to academics for the last year-and-a-half. Amayo originally signed with Towson State over Seton Hall, Providence and College of Charleston, but the NCAA deemed him academically ineligible in September 2011. He then enrolled at Marshall as an academic non-qualifier for the spring 2012 semester and sat a year before becoming eligible before the Kentucky game.
"When I got ruled ineligible, I had a rough span where I didn't know what I wanted to do for a second," Amayo said. "People who thought I could do something in basketball told to just keep working hard, sit out the semester and come to Marshall."
Amayo admits the holiday break practices have been taxing, but he has kept at it both on the court and in the film room.
"I was a little tired, but then I just pushed myself," he said. "I never was a quitter. I pushed myself and told myself that I've got to get in shape and do the little things to make myself better."
Amayo's addition should help fortify Marshall's point guard rotation, which has been in flux this season. The NCAA ruled freshman Kareem Candy academically ineligible, and he likely would have played significant minutes. Junior DeAndre Kane moved from shooting guard to point guard and averaged 8.5 assists a game, but has been out since the Cincinnati game, and remains out indefinitely, with a broken right hand.
Sophomore Chris Martin and freshman Tamron Manning have handled the point guard duties since then, recording a combined 20 assists to 31 turnovers for the season. Amayo was a three-star recruit coming out of NIA Prep according to Rivals.com. And at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, he has the size to overpower some point guards.
"I watch Deron Williams a lot," Amayo said of the Brooklyn Nets' 6-foot-3, 209-pound point guard, "to see how he moves and he cuts, how he plays the passing lanes on defense, how he plays offense and uses his body a lot. I watch a lot of tape of him."
Senior forward Dennis Tinnon said Amayo's linebacker-like frame should help him make a quick impact, but he, like the rest of the team, understands that Amayo will be a work in progress as he returns to game shape.
"We expect a lot from him, but we're not going to expect him come out right away and get a triple double," Tinnon said. "We're going to expect him to come out and play like a point guard should."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.