Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

MARSHALL BASKETBALL ; in D'Antoni's Second Season, Herd Remains `Work in Progress'

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

MARSHALL BASKETBALL ; in D'Antoni's Second Season, Herd Remains `Work in Progress'

Article excerpt

HUNTINGTON - The system of Dan D'Antoni is established. The players, for the most part, are not. That's the situation with Marshall's men's basketball program, which enters its second season under the former NBA assistant coach. The Thundering Herd takes the floor at the Henderson Center at 7 tonight, taking on Bluefield State in the first of two exhibitions.

Ever the optimist, D'Antoni likes the way the pieces are coming together and the product is evolving. How far the record will improve from the 11-21 last season, he's not sure yet.

"We're much faster, he said. "Team speed's much better, team shooting is much better. Still got 11 new players, and all of them have to fit in, and we've got to make sure the chemistry is there.

"You'd like to think we've got those guys coming back but still, when you've got 11 new ones, it's a work in progress. If that develops then we have a chance of being really good.

The nucleus begins with Ryan Taylor, often referred to as the Herd's "point forward. The 6-foot-5, 227-pound junior from Indianapolis made the All-Conference-USA third team on the strength of his 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last season. He recorded a league-high 14 double-doubles.

The other big name with big game is 6-7, 259-pound James Kelly. The Ann Arbor, Michigan, native will play a single season at MU after sitting his transfer year following his defection from Miami. D'Antoni has called him the team's best athlete, even the most athletic player MU has had in years.

D'Antoni likes how 6-9 Montenegro freshman Aleksandar Dozic has handed himself inside, as well as former Charlotte player Terrence Thompson. A third-year sophomore by eligibility, Thompson led Georgia Highlands College to the NJCAA Division I Final Four in the spring.

Sophomore Milan Mijovic and Ajdin Penava, both listed at 6-9, are the other inside candidates. Penava is still lean at 200 pounds and needs weight work.

D'Antoni demands that all his outside players handle the ball well and shoot better. His job in the last month has been to determine who best fits the job description.

That search could go deep into the season.

"Outside, man, that thing is wide open, D'Antoni said. "It's going to be trying to find who plays the best together with the inside guys. That's yet to be determined.

The Herd will start the season without former South Charleston/ George Washington star Jon Elmore. He likely will miss nine games, making his debut Dec. 17 against West Virginia. If his grades are posted early enough, he could play on the 14th against North Carolina Central.

Elmore was a midyear transfer from Virginia Military, which did not release him from his scholarship there.

Sophomore Aleksa Nikolic, who led the Herd with 3.5 assists per game, returns, as does Justin Edmonds. Edmonds emerged as the Herd's offensive spark before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the final regular-season game this spring. …

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