HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Among the connections between DeAndre Kane and his father, Calvin Jr., one of the deepest was basketball.
Both father and son were state champion guards at Schenley High in Pittsburgh, Pa., DeAndre's 2007 title coming 29 years after Calvin's in 1978. Both were Division I basketball players, Calvin at Lamar University in Texas and DeAndre at Marshall University. It was Calvin who woke DeAndre up early as a kid to work on his game.
"Every day, all day," DeAndre said. "Me and my dad, we'd get up early and go run. He'd make sure I'd go run, he'd feed me and we'd go back and hoop and shoot. It was great."
It devastated the younger Kane when his father died Feb. 7 at age 50, as the Thundering Herd was in the middle of its run to the Conference USA title game and the NIT. Yet, as tough as it was, DeAndre returned to the court. He knew it's what his father would have wanted.
Though his father may no longer be in the stands, Kane wanted to do something to keep his spirit close. He found that in the number that will rest against his chest this season.
Kane will wear the number 50 on his jersey in tribute to his father. He'll use it as inspiration this upcoming season, as he tries to augment his list of personal accolades with his team's goal - an NCAA Tournament berth that has eluded the Herd since 1987.
It wasn't that Calvin just loved playing basketball. He loved everything about basketball.
"Basketball was all he loved," Kane said. "He could tell you about every player in the country - NBA, overseas, anything."
Kane gained a love for the game as well, and excelled at it. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard was Conference USA's 2011 Freshman of the Year, leading Marshall in steals (32) and finishing second in scoring (15.1 ppg) and assists (117). He bumped up his scoring average to a team-high 16.5 points per game last year, third-best in the league, and was named to the All-C-USA second team, as well as the conference's all-tournament team.
Yet he played the end of the season with a heavy heart. He flew from Huntington to Pittsburgh to be by his father's side the night of Feb. 6, rejoined the team in Orlando for its Feb. 8 game at Central Florida, and then returned to Pittsburgh for his father's viewing and funeral. Kane admitted returning to the court wasn't easy. He wondered if the game was as important to him as it was before his father's death.
A conversation with his mother turned him back toward basketball.
"She said, 'He'd want you to keep going, keep playing and make him proud,'" he said.
His new jersey number will help his motivation. He asked teammate J.P. Kambola, who wore 50 last season, for the number and the center obliged.
"I know his dad meant a lot to him," Kambola said. "He said he was a mentor. It was the best thing I could do."