Derek Redd: Herd has a few more playmakers on its roster
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall men's basketball coach Tom Herrion was asked how many members of last season's Thundering Herd roster could truly be categorized as a shot creator. How many guys could put the ball on the floor and manufacture opportunities, as opposed to needing others to help manufacture them.
It wasn't a long list.
"We felt this time last year, before (Kareem) Canty got ruled ineligible, we really didn't have a lot of guys who could put it on the floor and create," he said. "Maybe one or two guys."
And one of those guys was DeAndre Kane, the mercurial guard who parted ways with the Herd in the offseason and ultimately ended up at Iowa State. The short list got even shorter. But it wasn't short for long.
The turnover of Marshall's roster - seven members of the Herd's active 2012-13 lineup are gone via graduation or transfer - allowed Herrion and his staff to stock up on those players who can put the ball on the floor. That diversity in ball handling could make for a more dangerous offense.
The Herd could use the boost. Its 69.0 points per game last season was just eighth-best in Conference USA and tied for 134th in Division I.
"Just the fact you have shot creators is important," sophomore guard Tamron Manning said. "Of course, college basketball has a shot clock, so you get to situations where it's just you and a defender and you have to make something happen."
For much of last season, when the shot clock wound down, the Herd's best - and sometimes only - bet was Kane. He could get to the hoop, but it sometimes became an adventure, especially when he was fouled and stepped to the line with a 52.1-percent free throw percentage.
Herrion said this season comes with several more options.
"This year, we're going to be able to drive the ball off different positions and create," Herrion said. "Put the ball in forwards' hands. We couldn't do that the first three years. We had good players with really good strengths in their games, but that wasn't a strength in their games."
In seasons past, the Herd had players like forward Dennis Tinnon, at his best crashing the boards and scoring second-chance points. There was D.D. Scarver, a jump shooter who patrolled the 3-point line for his chances to dent the scoring column. Now the Herd has Canty and forward Ryan Taylor, who sat last season as academic non-qualifiers but are good to go now, a maturing Manning and junior college transfer Chris Thomas.
"The fact that we could put, at one time, maybe four or five people who can do that is really important for offensive flow," Manning said. "I think it's going to be a big difference from last year."
Manning feels he can offer more in that department this year. As a freshman pressed into early duty, he deferred to the older players. He did what he could while the veterans stuck to their styles. Manning's just a sophomore now, but among returning players, only last year's leading scorer, Elijah Pittman, played more minutes.
It terms of Marshall's roster, he's a veteran, so he's more comfortable putting his stamp on the offense.
Something needed to change after last season's veteran-laden team stumbled to a surprising 13-19 finish. And in building a better offense, the Herd has taken more of a do-it-yourself approach.
"Now it's just more freedom in the offense," Manning said. "It makes Coach (Herrion's) job easier. He doesn't have to rush to make sure a certain person gets the ball. If I have it, Elijah has it, Kareem has it or Ryan has it, you can just say, OK, there's five seconds. It's time to score, so hurry up."
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.