HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall men's basketball coach Tom Herrion was hopeful that center Yous Mbao could return from his knee injury sometime this season, but there was a point when he wasn't optimistic.
Then he saw what hard work and a good training staff could do.
Mbao returned to the lineup this past weekend, at a time when the Thundering Herd could have used him, and is ready to remain an option this Saturday when the Herd visits new Conference USA foe Charlotte at 7 p.m. Saturday.
When the 7-foot-2 Mbao checked in at the 12:45 mark of the first half in Marshall's game last Friday at Southern Mississippi, it was the first time he'd seen the court since the Herd's Jan. 2 loss to Akron. His left knee, on which he had minor surgery this past summer, was giving him enough problems that it forced him to the sidelines.
"After the surgery, I didn't do rehab long enough, so my knee got weak," Mbao said. "It caused more swelling and more pain."
Mbao's absence made a shallow low-post lineup for Marshall even shallower. The Rufisque, Senegal native is one of three Herd players standing 6-9 or taller, along with 6-9 juniors Cheikh Sane and J.P. Kambola, and Kambola hasn't played a second this year while he and the Herd continue working through an eligibility issue. That's forced Marshall to play small, with 6-7 former George Washington star TyQuane Goard playing center.
But Goard missed Friday's game at Southern Miss and Sunday's game at Tulane with a bruised shoulder. Herrion said Tuesday he hoped Goard could return for Saturday's game in Charlotte, but he is day-to-day.
Luckily for Herrion and the Herd, Mbao had been working hard with Tom Belmaggio and the rest of the Marshall training staff to get back into game shape.
"I knew I had to get back on the floor to help my teammates try to win games," Mbao said. "I'm part of the team, so I wanted to help my teammates as much as I can. I had to rehab every day at least twice. If I didn't have class, I'd pretty much spend the day in the training room doing rehab and treatment."