CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The reboot of the Marshall men's basketball team's backcourt continued last Friday with a promising new cast member. Most importantly, he's a possible long-term answer.
The Thundering Herd signed guard Jaylen Brantley to a letter of intent, adding a player considered among the nation's best in many recruiting circles. Both MaxPreps and 247Sports give him four stars, while HoopScoop ranks him 74th in the Class of 2013.
The Herd needed guard help after the exodus of three following its disappointing 2012-13 season. Role player Chris Martin was the first to go, leaving right after the season's end, and then came a stunning 1-2 punch in the span of a week. First Marshall Coach Tom Herrion parted ways with three-time all-conference star DeAndre Kane, then said goodbye to long-range threat D.D. Scarver.
The exit of Martin, a high-character kid and hard worker, stings more in terms of the locker room. Losing Kane and Scarver forces the Herd to come up with 27 points per game it didn't expect to lose this offseason. So what fans should expect is to see a backcourt much different than last year's.
Tamron Manning and DeVince Boykins should see a lot more time than the 11 minutes and 10.5 minutes per game, respectively, that they saw last year. Kareem Canty, who sat out last season as an academic non-qualifier, should be the true point guard the Herd sorely needs. Marshall signed versatile junior college guard Justin Edmonds as well.
Then there's Brantley, who shot 44 percent from 3-point range and 85 percent from the free throw line last season at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass. Anyone who watched Marshall last season knows it needs help bumping up its shooting percentages in both areas. And considering he garnered interest from schools like Florida, Georgia, Missouri and Virginia, there's some significant buzz around the kid.
But the most important aspect of Brantley's arrival could be his future and not his present. Junior college signees have been a significant part of Herrion's recruiting strategy. Three of his four for this year came from those ranks. They come to campus physically more mature and when they succeed (see Tinnon, Dennis and Pittman, Elijah) they make for great quick fixes.
Yet, as quickly as they arrive, they're gone, usually out in two years or, in Scarver's case, maybe just one. Brantley, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound point guard, should be able to give the Herd four years of his services. There is talk he might have to sit a year to work on academics, but if he does, that just allows Marshall to stagger Canty and Brantley's eligibility. If he can play right away, you can create a killer point guard rotation or even put both guys on the floor at the same time.