#129 Marshall: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #129
Conference Rank: #7 Conference USA
2009-10: 24-10, 11-5
2009-10 postseason: CIT
Coach: Tom Herrion (First year at Marshall, 80-38 overall)
Coach Donnie Jones built the Marshall basketball program into something to be somewhat proud of before splitting to Conference USA rival UCF. The question now is whether or not Coach Tom Herrion can continue the success. Without Hassan Whiteside, who was drafted 33rd overall in the NBA Draft, and Tyler Wilkerson, Chris Lutz and Darryl Merthie, there is some rebuilding to do. However, the cupboard is certainly not bare.
Key Losses: G Chris Lutz, G Darryl Merthie, C Hassan Whiteside, F Tyler Wilkerson
Replacing Whiteside and Wilkerson will be nearly impossible. The frontcourt duo combined to average 27.1 points, 16.1 rebounds and 6.4 blocks. Eladio Espinosa and Aundra Williams will have to help replace those numbers. Espinosa spent one year playing at USF before heading to Marshall. During that year the 6-7 forward started a dozen games and averaged 1.8 points and 2.9 rebounds. Williams has some experience as well after spending a couple years at different junior colleges. He is not much of a scorer, but he is a big bodied 6-10, 250 pound center who can eat up space in the paint, grab some rebounds and block the occasional shot. The lone incoming freshman is Dante Holmes and the 6-3 guard should provide some versatility off of the bench.
The focus will suddenly shift from the frontcourt to the backcourt without Whiteside and Wilkerson. Damier Pitts is the point guard, but fellow backcourt mate Shaquille Johnson is also a solid ball handler. Pitts will likely turn into the best scorer on the team after averaging 10.4 points per game a year ago. Pitts is the best returning outside shooter on the team, but he is also quick enough and strong enough to attack the basket as well. That dynamic scoring ability may move him off the ball a little more. With Johnson available, that may just be the best way to do it. Johnson is not a bad scorer either, although his outside shooting leaves something to be desired. Pitts and Johnson will be Marshall’s main scorers this season and there is not much depth behind them this year outside of 6-6 wing Dago Pena. Pena, yet another junior, may need to start on the wing if the Thundering Herd are forced to play small, but he has some starting experience and has the potential to be a dominating scorer and a decent rebounder from the wing or two guard spot.
Antonio Haymon is a 6-6, 220 pound senior who will have to help replace the production left behind by Whiteside and Wilkerson. Haymon has never been much of a scoring threat, but he is a tough player who will hit the glass. Nigel Spikes’ first year playing for Marshall was nothing special, but he has the big body and the scoring potential this team needs under the basket. He only averaged 2.2 points and 2.3 rebounds last season, but the 6-10 Fort Lauderdale, Florida product only played 8.4 minutes per game. He may not be handed the starting job due to the arrival of Williams, but he could turn into a great option off of the bench who can grab some boards and eat up some fouls…usually too many fouls.
Who to Watch:
Tirrell Baines has spent most of his career at the small forward position with some backup duty at the four spot due to the talent in front of him. Baines is a good athlete and rebounder who has just never been asked to do too much for this team. Things will be different this time around. The frontcourt has to find some new scorers and Baines is the most experienced and talented option available. At 6-6 and 220 pounds, he has enough size and strength to play power forward in Conference USA and his senior leadership will go a long way no matter where he plays or how many points he scores.
There is some rebuilding to do, but the backcourt is talented enough to carry this team. Over the last couple of years Pitts and Johnson left the headlines for the frontcourt, but they are good enough to take over this team and lead them to another 20 win season and another postseason berth.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Damier Pitts, Junior, Guard, 10.4 ppg
Shaquille Johnson, Junior, Guard, 9.5 ppg
Dago Pena, Junior, Guard, 7.3 ppg
Tirrell Baines, Senior, Forward, 6.4 ppg
Aundra Williams, Junior, Center, DNP last season
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