Derek Redd: Changes continue for Herd hoops
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.
Either way, the Herd - with Canty, Brantley, Boykins and Manning all either first- or second-year players - stabilized what has been a tumultuous backcourt situation over the past few months.
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THE HERD might have a shot at another blue-chipper, now that Huntington Prep stud center Dominic Woodson will no longer attend Baylor. Huntington Prep Coach Rob Fulford said Monday he's already fielded calls from several major Division I programs about Woodson, who was waiting for the NCAA to approve his release from his letter of intent. He added that Woodson mentioned Marshall and Memphis as schools in which he's interested.
The 6-10 Woodson is considered a top-100 player by Rivals, ESPN and 247Sports and could fortify a frontcourt that lost forwards Dennis Tinnon and Rob Goff and center Nigel Spikes to graduation. He'd have a support system in place in Huntington, but he's sure to have plenty of suitors. How wide he'll re-open his recruiting, and where the Herd would fit into that process, remains to be seen.
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MEANWHILE, IN "Where in the World is DeAndre Kane?" news, he might not be heading back home to Pittsburgh after all. Kane, who told CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman on May 8 that he would commit to the Panthers on a weekend visit, told Goodman on Sunday that he never ended up committing and remains unattached.
Pitt remains an option, as does Marshall's former Conference USA foe Memphis. As much as some Herd fans would hate for Kane to become a Tiger, it might give him an easier path to the NCAA Tournament. Now a member of the American Athletic Conference, Memphis should walk in and automatically be one of the upper-tier teams with defending national champion Louisville, Connecticut and Cincinnati. Head to Pitt, and he's fighting to keep his head above water in the best basketball conference in America.
There'd be a big difference in surrounding talent, too. Memphis returns 2012-13 C-USA player of the year Joe Jackson, plus Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson. Pitt has seen an exodus of key players through graduation, transfer and the NBA Draft that makes snagging Kane crucial. His big decision will be whether he wants to play among a collection of talent with a clearer road to the Big Dance or spend his final season as the focal point of a team that will be in a cage match every night in conference play.
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.