Marshall basketball: Thomas, Herd looking to the future
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Chris Thomas didn't need to visit Marshall University to know he wanted to play basketball there. It was the Thundering Herd's faith in his future that made him feel welcome. And after arriving on campus to start classes, he feels he made the right decision.
Marshall men's basketball hopes his decision works out, too. After a disappointing 2012-13 campaign, Herd Coach Tom Herrion revamped the roster to rekindle postseason hopes that quickly died out last year.
Thomas' basketball resume has plenty of bright spots. A Denver, Colo., native, the sophomore at one point was considered one of the top 10 prospects in America by Rivals.com. ESPN.com's scouting report said that, at 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, he had the frame and skill to be a potential NBA scoring guard.
Yet there were blemishes as well. In 2012, while at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College, he was charged with driving without a valid driver's license and operating an unregistered vehicle and was put on conditional release in a pre-trial intervention program. While in that program, he tested positive for marijuana. He was arrested for that violation and missed the state junior college tournament. That had Manhattan, where he had committed, reconsidering whether to bring him in.
When Marshall called, Thomas said the team wanted to help him grow past that.
"When I called them, they said, 'We're not going to look at your past. We're going to look at your future. We're not even going to talk about your past,'" Thomas said. "At the end of the day, that's what brought me here. It's here and now, where we're at right now.
"I'm very happy to get back on the floor," he added. "I don't want to go through what I went through anymore. I'm just ready to be a man with the situation. It's going great right now."
Thomas wasted little time when he arrived on campus, saying he hit the gym for five hours to work on his game on his first day. He had some catching up to do. The vast majority of the team had practiced during the summer and embarked on a trip through Canada, playing several teams up north.
It's not always easy being the new guy among a group that's already had time to interact and learn about each other. Yet Herrion said the transition was seamless. He remembers a team meeting on the Sunday before classes, which was the first time Thomas got to meet all his new teammates.
"He walks off with six or seven guys, they go eat dinner and the rest is history," Herrion said. "He'll find his way. He's a terrific talent."
Sophomore guard Tamron Manning said welcoming Thomas into the team was no trouble. His talent and his personality made it work.
"We want to win and need guys like Chris to help us win," said Manning, Thomas' roommate in Huntington. "He's a cool guy. It's really easy to get acclimated to him. He's a people person."
Thomas wants to be a person that can slide into whatever spot the Herd needs him to fill. He averaged 9.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 26 games last season at Chipola and he wants to add what Herrion and the players already consider a versatile group.
"I feel like my role is to be a playmaker, make any plays," he said. "Make plays on the defensive end and the offensive end. If we need anything ... if I need to dive on the floor or dive in the stands to get the ball, I'm going to do whatever it takes for us to win games."
Herrion said Thomas has the skills to help make that happen.
"He's explosive," Herrion said. "Scary fast in the open court. He's a shot maker, not a pure shooter. And he's got great feel. He's a willing passer. He's got a good feel for the game."
In his short time at Marshall, Thomas sees a lot of promise for the Herd's season. Last year's 13-19 finish disappointed many who felt the Herd had a roster that could contend for the Conference USA crown. Many of the components on that roster are gone via graduation or transfer.
So many of Marshall's faces are new, Thomas' being one of them. In his mind, for the Herd to bounce back, it must maintain the team atmosphere he entered just a few weeks ago.
"We've got good talent," he said. "We need to stay together and we need to win."
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HERRION SAID forward Cheikh Sane's transcript issue hasn't yet been resolved, but is "in progress and we're moving toward a very positive conclusion." Herrion said in August that Sane, a junior college transfer, needed some paperwork to return from Senegal.
He added that center Yous Mbao (knee) has been practicing and that junior college transfer Justin Edmonds (ACL) has been cleared for full contact.
"Our people are just amazed that he's gotten to the point where we've cleared him so soon," Herrion said.
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THE HERD picked up a verbal commitment Wednesday from 6-8 forward Shane Hall from Johnson Central High School in Kentucky. A Paintsville, Ky., resident, Hall averaged 15.9 points and 9.9 rebounds last season. Hall joins center Henry Uwadiae from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on the Herd's verbal commitment list.
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MARSHALL WILL host Green & White scrimmages for the men's and women's basketball teams Thursday, Oct. 17 at the Cam Henderson Center. The women will begin at 5:30 p.m., taking part in drills and skill work before their intrasquad scrimmage. The men begin at 7 p.m. with skill work and a scrimmage. Students are free with a valid MU ID. All other tickets are $5.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.