MARSHALL BASKETBALL: Players get first taste of D’Antoni’s system
HUNTINGTON, W.Va.— At one point during Marshall men’s basketball coach Dan D’Antoni’s Saturday workout with his Thundering Herd, he stopped the proceedings to offer some advice a player shuffling his feet through a play.
Hesitation, he said, won’t help anyone.
That’s just one of the tenets D’Antoni and his staff will try to teach the Marshall roster as they march toward the 2014-15 season. In his new offense and defense, the Marshall Athletics Hall of Famer former NBA assistant said he wants decisive players.
“If you hesitate, you’re lost on this floor,” D’Antoni said after the session, among the supervised summer workouts the NCAA allows. “I’m getting them to understand that the biggest mistake they can make is to be indecisive. I want them to be confident and I want them to go.
“If they make a mistake, don’t worry about it,” he continued. “Keep going, get through it, make up for it a little bit, and then we’ll talk afterward about it. Be decisive on the floor, having an idea of where the ball’s going next, instead of catching the ball and trying to see where it’s going.”
D’Antoni and the assistants on the floor — Mark Cline, Chris Duhon and Scott Rigot — spent Saturday morning putting the players through the paces of their new offense and defense for the first time. Offensively, D’Antoni wanted the players to understand how they’ll run the floor, how they’ll space the floor, their pick-and-rolls and back cuts.
The big lesson was that Marshall’s new offense will involve several players working in combination to find the easiest shot. Guard DeVince Boykins said including more players in the scoring will build confidence in all of them.
“I think it’s going to benefit everyone,” Boykins said. “People aren’t going to be timid to just play. Everyone’s going to be willing to attack, where in previous years, we had one or two people or one through three, pretty much taking all the shots.”
Guard Chris Thomas said it’s a different look than he and the rest of the team are used to, but one that they’re ready to embrace.
“It’s a lot different, but I feel like we’re going to have a great season,” Thomas said. “(D’Antoni) coached in the (NBA) and that’s where I’m trying to get to. And our offense is coming from the league. So far, I like that offense and I think it’s going to be good.”
Defensively, the coaches taught angles, looking for opportunities to trap and guarding the entire court. They drilled the players on staying in front of the ball and pestering the ball-handler. Boykins said he already can see the benefits.
“I feel like the schemes we have will make it interesting,” Boykins said. “I think it’ll be a lot of steals and highlights for us, as long as we rotate well and do things the right way. I’m looking forward to it.”
For now, D’Antoni said he wanted to build multifaceted basketball players that would thrive in his schemes. If big men can shoot, they will, and everyone will be able to run. He’s ramped up conditioning to help that along. From first glance, he said, he said the effort was good and his players have accepted the challenge of a new system.
“If you’re a basketball player, you can fit in,” D’Antoni said. “If you’re not a basketball player, you might struggle. I’m assuming all these guys, first look, are basketball players. They’re trying.
“Some of them are shooting 3s that probably have never shot a 3 before,” he added. “Probably won’t, but in practices, they’ll play like basketball players. We get into a game, if they’re good kids, and they want us to win, they’ll do what they do best and not what they can’t.”
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D’ANTONI GOT his first official signee this weekend, as Marshall announced Hedgesville High’s C.J. Burks signed a letter of intent. The 6-foot-3 guard was a Class AAA all-state first-team selection after averaging 20 points per game as a senior. And while there has been no official announcement from the school, former Miami forward James Kelly announced on his Twitter feed that he would transfer to Marshall. The 6-7 Kelly averaged 6.0 points and 3.7 rebounds in 17.9 minutes as a junior. He came to Miami from Owens Community College, the school that gave Marshall guard Justin Edmonds.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.