Admittedly, it takes me a little time to get going in the morning when my alarm jolts me out of sleep at 5 a.m. to be in Huntington for a 7:30 a.m. men’s basketball practice.
For men’s Coach Tom Herrion, it most certainly did not.
Herrion was a human wake-up call for me and the Marshall players, guiding them through an intense and fast-paced defensive practice. Here are a few things I took away from my first experience:
– Teams get two hours a week this summer to practice, and Herrion wants to spend half of that drilling defense. As good of a rebounding team Marshall was last season (10th in the country in rebounding margin), the Thundering Herd was 256th out of 338 Division I teams in field goal percentage defense. MU allowed opponents to shoot 45 percent last season. Look for a story on that in Wednesday’s Daily Mail.
– I was a little disappointed not to be able to see post players Dennis Tinnon and Robert Goff practice, as Tinnon was wearing a walking boot on his left foot and Goff was wearing a brace on his right knee. Herrion didn’t say much about the injuries, except that he expects both back soon. And if you’re going to get hurt, mid-July is probably the least stressful time to do it.
– Also not there were junior college transfers D.D. Scarver and Elijah Pittman. Both were still finishing up at their respective junior colleges and should be in Huntington when classes start.
– The Herd had two academic non-qualifiers practicing Tuesday. One, forward Ryan Taylor, folks already knew about. There was another, 6-foot-7 Anthony Livingston from Beacon Prep in Georgia. Another player, Newark, N.J. guard Kelvin Amayo, enrolled in January as an academic non-qualifier and, if he completes his necessary work, will be available to play after the fall semester this year.
– Marshall also had walk-on Austin Loop practicing. The 6-foot-4 Loop, from South Webster High in Ohio, was the state’s Division IV Southeast District Player of the Year as a senior, averaging 17.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.6 steals.
– Redshirt freshman DeVince Boykins looks like he could suit up at linebacker for Head Football Coach Doc Holliday. I was told he looked big last season and looks even better this year. If that translates to the court, the Herd should have a pretty good crew of guards.
– Speaking of guards, freshman point guard Kareem Canty was passing well Tuesday morning. A lot of folks are high on the Harlem native and for good reason. He could be a significant contributor this season.
– It was a pretty full day in Huntington. After practice, Sports Editor Chuck McGill and I walked around campus and hit the football facilities. We dropped in on several coaches and administrators, including Holliday and Athletic Director Mike Hamrick. Things seemed pretty calm, but that changes for them — and me — once practice begins in August.
Afterward, Chuck and I went to Spring Hill Cemetery to visit the memorial for the victims of the 1970 plane crash. I’ve been to Huntington a few times before, but never to the site that Marshall fans hold very close to their hearts.
Before we left, Chuck had to take me to lunch at a Huntington-area staple, Hillbilly Hot Dogs. Now I love me some good food, especially food that probably isn’t the best for me. After one meal, I can only say this: Sweet Mother of Pearl, Hillbilly Hot Dogs, where have you been all my life?
I sat in a converted school bus and chowed down on a Strictly Business Dog, loaded with nearly everything … including fried Spam. Yes, you read that right. And it was glorious.
All in all, a pretty good day.