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Marshall basketball: Change is inevitable, but not always bad

DeAndre Kane's Instagram account is replete with pictures of his trip to the Left Coast.

He visited California last week as he explores his next step, one that will take him away from the Marshall University men's basketball program. Kane has one year of collegiate eligibility left, and he'll reportedly spend it at one of three schools: Southern Cal, St. Mary's or Pittsburgh.

The last school on that list - Pitt - is an intriguing option given Herd Coach Tom Herrion's history with the program (three years as an assistant) and his close relationship with Pitt Coach Jamie Dixon.

It's just a hunch, but I reckon Kane didn't receive a letter of recommendation from Herrion after last month's falling out.

Kane represents the last of Donnie Jones' recruits to exit the MU program. Overall, all but two of Jones' leftovers exhausted their eligibility with the Herd. Kane and the well-traveled Eladio Espinosa, who has since spent seasons at the University of Charleston and Livingstone College, are the exceptions.

Herrion, who will embark on this fourth season at Marshall this fall, has found it challenging to ensemble - and retain - talent. He's tried everything, too.

Graduate transfers (Johnny Thomas), junior college transfers (Johnny Higgins, D.D. Scarver and Aundra Williams), academic non-qualifiers (Justin Coleman, Isaiah Williams and Kelvin Amayo) and hurdle-free prep kids (Chris Martin) all have had short stays in Huntington.

Kane, Scarver and Martin are this offseason's defections, although it's not surprising that significant roster turnover followed a 13-win season.

This is not a Marshall-only epidemic, either. Nearly 900 Division I men's basketball players have transferred in the past 18 months.

"The one sure thing in life is change," Herrion said when asked about the roster overhaul that should bring the program seven newcomers next season.

"Clearly, we've had a lot of it, but change isn't always a bad thing. I'm really excited about the guys we still have in our program and the new faces we're about to add.

"We are continuing to look to add another piece."

The returnees - barring another departure - will be seniors Yous Mbao and Elijah Pittman; juniors Jamir Hanner and J.P. Kambola; and sophomores DeVince Boykins and Tamron Manning.

They'll be joined by highly touted freshmen Kareem Canty and Ryan Taylor, each of whom sat out last season as academic non-qualifiers. TyQuane Goard, a former George Washington High School standout who spent one season at Ohio, is also eligible. Junior college transfers Justin Edmonds, Cheikh Sane and Shawn Smith have signed national letters of intent and will join the program this summer.

Canty and Taylor are expected to become fully eligible when grades are posted Friday.

"We're not going to get two better high school players on the market that have the ability of Kareem Canty and Ryan Taylor," Herrion said.

"It's easy to forget those two guys are incoming freshmen."

Herrion hopes to replace the recently departed Scarver with "a perimeter guy, a shooter-type guy, in a perfect world."

Then the 45-year-old head coach will go to work at molding these 13 scholarship guys into one cohesive unit, something that never happened last season.

A quick turnaround shouldn't be ruled out. Programs like Wichita State and Iowa State lean heavily on transfers and JUCO talent.

The Shockers are coming off a Final Four run a season after losing their top five scorers, and the Cyclones almost knocked off Ohio State in March for a Sweet 16 berth.

"Programs like that are being successful in what is considered a non-traditional way," Herrion said.

"There's a stereotype about junior college kids ... but we have to be exhaustive and creative when looking at every possibility."

In his short time with the Herd, Herrion has taken nine junior college players. Higgins and Scarver aside, they've been long wing players or post players.

The backcourt players - Canty, Manning and Boykins - have come from the high school ranks.

Graduated forwards Dennis Tinnon and Robert Goff played a combined 53.6 minutes in 2011-12 and 48.2 minutes last season. The 6-foot-8 Hanner and 6-9 Kambola have combined to average 5.8 minutes per game in their collegiate careers.

They're development is key. They need to compete for starting spots, not simply let the junior college talent overshadow them.

"When we recruit junior college players we want them to fit our needs," Herrion said. "When you want a post player, a junior college kid is going to be physically developed to come in right away and compete.

"It takes longer for high school (post players) and we don't have a wealth of high school level prospects in our geographic backyard.

"We have to cast a wider net."

If that net brings back an old boot and a used tire, it could be another long winter.

Herrion, more than anyone, is working to avoid that fate.

"I knew coming off last season change was inevitable," he said. "Sometimes you make decisions that maybe aren't as clear to the fan base or the general public, but they are decisions I made for the best interest of the program."

Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at chuck.mcgill@dailymail.com or 304-348-7949. Follow him on Twitter @chuckmcgill.


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