HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The feelings flowing through Kareem Canty this July likely are the same he felt this time last year - anticipation and excitement for the start of the Marshall men's basketball season.
What will be different - vastly different - will be his feelings after this season begins. He should feel the joy of being the proud owner of an official Thundering Herd roster spot. It won't be the despair of learning at the last minute that his college career was on hold.
After last year's very unwelcome surprise of NCAA ineligibility, Canty is ready to put that year behind him and finally don a Marshall uniform.
"Last year was shocking," the 6-foot-1 Harlem, N.Y. point guard said. "It was the worst news I could ever hear. Knowing I can go into training camp and not worry about it is the best thing ever."
Marshall Coach Tom Herrion admits that sometimes, when an athlete arrives, it's known from the start that he'll likely sit a year as an academic casualty. Yet that wasn't the case for Canty. The Herd figured from the beginning that he'd be good to go and an instant contender for the starting point guard job.
Then came the surprise that Canty wouldn't play in the Herd's first exhibition game of last season as Marshall worked with the NCAA to iron out eligibility issues. He attended two schools the year before he came to Marshall - starting at Westwind Prep in Phoenix, before transferring after Christmas to Faith Baptist Christian in Brandon, Fla. He also played for Bridgton Academy in Maine and Bishop Loughlin Memorial High in Brooklyn.
Canty's wait extended into the first two games of the regular season and the surprise became shock when, the day before Marshall's third regular-season game, the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the season.
The announcement stunned the team and leveled Canty. Considered one of the top point guard prospects of that year, if he wasn't the starter, he'd be an integral player off the bench. He was able to keep his scholarship but, as an academic non-qualifier, he lost the ability to practice with the team.
So he spent the 2012-13 season in college hoops purgatory - on campus and in the classroom because of his basketball skills, but barred from showing them in an official Marshall practice or game.
"It was really hard," he said. "I was getting my mind ready for the season. Once I was told I couldn't play, at first, I thought maybe they'd change their minds later down the line. But once I knew I really couldn't play, it was hard for me to even keep working out. But I found the motivation."