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Marshall basketball: Herd will be versatile

HUNTINGTON - Some numbers won't be so important to the Marshall men's basketball team this season.

Some, like points and steals and rebounds, will be crucial, especially when the Thundering Herd is trying to improve one critical number - the 13 wins it finished with in 2012-13. In that mission, the number that signifies a player's position on the court - from the point guard or the "1" to the center or the "5" - won't be as concrete.

The physical makeup of the Herd roster offers more flexibility in their on-court roles, and Marshall Coach Tom Herrion hopes to take advantage of that this coming season.

"We had a lot of size the last couple of years," Herrion said. "I don't know how much flexibility we had, an ability to move guys around. It impacted how we played.

"I think we'll be able to play a little differently, being able to move guys around," he added. "I think we'll have more ball skill on the floor at a lot of different positions, so that's going to create different opportunities for us."

The 2012-13 Herd roster was a big and long one. Only Chris Martin at 6 feet was listed shorter than 6-foot-4, and seven players were listed at 6-8 or taller. The 2013-14 roster has come back a little closer to earth, as four players are listed 6-9 or taller and only one of the four, forward Elijah Pittman, played significant minutes.

Now the roster is populated with players like 6-4 guards DeVince Boykins, Justin Edmonds and Tamron Manning and forwards like Ryan Taylor, Shawn Smith and TyQuane Goard who stand between 6-5 and 6-7. Herrion feels that will allow him to mix and match the lineups more than he was able to in the past.

"We have very few players who are one-position guys," Herrion said. "We have one, two, maybe three guys. You look at the makeup of our team - Tamron, most of his minutes were at the point, mostly out of necessity. He's obviously a versatile guard who can play both positions. We'll play him and Kareem together. DeVince has the ability because he's so strong to move around and defend multiple positions."

Boykins, linebacker-thick at 211 pounds, said the team's overall athleticism should allow that versatility to shine through on the court.

"We have a lot of 6-6 guys that can run a 2, run a 3 and run some 4 because they have great jumping ability," Boykins said. "I think our team is very, very versatile. I think it's going to work in our favor this year with mismatches and things of that nature."

With that boost in athleticism, Herrion expects the Herd to play a little differently than last season, becoming more of a pressure team. It's a style Herrion used when he was head coach at the College of Charleston, and a style he feels the team will enjoy playing.

It should change the face of not just the offense, but the defense as well, and both could use some help to improve from last season's dismal statistics. The Herd finished eighth out of 12 Conference USA teams in scoring offense (69.0 points per game) and 11th in scoring defense (72.7 ppg allowed).  Marshall was 10th in shooting percentage (42.7 percent) and ninth in shooting percentage allowed (44 percent). That includes allowing 37-percent shooting from 3-point range, which was last in C-USA.

"We're going to try to get up and be a little more aggressive than we have been in the past, try to force tempo with our defense a little bit more, both full court and half court," Herrion said.

"I think we have the personnel to extend and also play a lot of guys. So we're going to look to play a little faster and more aggressive and our defense, hopefully, will start to create better offensive opportunities for us."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.


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