Marshall basketball: Herd duo prepared to make debut
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- D.D. Scarver and Elijah Pittman are more than ready for the big time.
After starring at the junior college level, the duo makes its official jump into Division I basketball when Marshall opens its regular season at 7:30 p.m. today at the Cam Henderson Center against Longwood.
The two were among the top 25 junior college prospects in America, according to JucoRecruting.com. Pittman, a 6-foot-9, 219-pound forward from Lamar State College-Port Arthur, was 21st. Scarver, a 6-foot-4, 202-pound swingman from Trinity Valley Community College, was 23rd.
Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said the two should immediately make a difference on offense. They showed that potential in the Herd's lone exhibition game versus Bluefield College. Pittman led all scorers with 23 points, while Scarver added 18, including a pair of 3-pointers.
"They both have the ability to make shots," Herrion said. "They have a knack for scoring. That's something that, sometimes, you can't teach. They're athletic and very competitive young men."
But Pittman said he wants to be more than just a scorer. He wants to reinforce Marshall's defense above everything else.
The Herd should welcome that determination. Despite a 21-14 record and an NIT berth last season, Marshall was next to last in Conference USA allowing 68.1 points per game and last in C-USA allowing opponents to shoot 45 percent from the floor.
"I want this to be a shutout team, so teams are like, 'They can score, but they're defense first,'" Pittman said. "If I can do that, I know there are 13 other guys who can do that, too."
Where the duo will make their initial contributions, be it from the bench or the starting lineup, remains to be seen.
The two started against Bluefield, but five players, including three starters, sat the game. But forward Robert Goff, who was resting his surgically repaired knee, should play.
Guard DeAndre Kane, a preseason all-C-USA first teamer, and center Nigel Spikes sat due to Herrion's decision, though Herrion said Tuesday he expects more players to be ready to play for the Lancers.
Longwood - a Division I team since 2007, but a first-year member of the Big South Conference - returns one starter, leading scorer Tristan Carey (13.4 points per game in 2011-12).
The Lancers were 10-21 last season.
Regardless of the opponent, Pittman and Scarver can't wait for tonight's tip-off.
The two have a chance to move from the juco ranks and help the Thundering Herd reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since losing in the 1987 tournament's first round.
From the atmosphere to the on-court action, Scarver is ready for the new opportunity.
"It's very exciting," he said. "Just with the fans and playing with my teammates, it really is a bigger stage."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.