HUNTINGTON - They come with recruitnik-fueled acclaim, assigned some ranking by self-styled talent-evaluating geniuses. A faction of fans celebrate athletes' commitments louder than fast-break dunks.
At Marshall, Kareem Canty was ranked the No. 28 point guard, Tamron Manning was the No. 58 shooting guard and Elijah Pittman and D.D. Scarver are considered excellent recruits out of junior college.
All that goes out the window this weekend, with preseason practice going full steam. Coach Tom Herrion referred to that at media day Thursday, describing how a new prospect will be "fighting for his life."
Metaphorically, of course, but the veterans can relate.
"I really don't think they know what to expect," said Nigel Spikes, the Herd's only four-year senior. "Herd Madness [Friday night] is a fun day, but their first practice they might be in for a rude awakening."
"I tried to give a little insight, but I can't give them too much," said center Robert Goff, with a sly grin. "Coach would get mad at me."
Let's put it this way: The workouts are much more intense than in high school and many junior colleges. Much longer, too - sometimes they never seem to end.
Dead periods are scarce and loafing never goes undetected. In the Donnie Jones era, one assistant tallied hustle points, or deductions, and those in the minus column would run an appropriate number of "gassers" at the end of practice.
Nowadays, you face the high-volume barbs of Herrion, who never tires. Tinnon had heard some of that in the brief pre-preseason workouts a year ago, but still wasn't ready for his first full practice.
"My first day at practice, I screwed up every single thing," Tinnon said. "We're doing three-man weave, five tight, and I screwed up everything. We were doing something called 'straight across,' and I screwed that up. We started doing plays and I screwed that up, too.
"I think a lot of us get caught up in wanting to press too much, want to impress the coach. I think I wanted to show them more than I could handle."
Goff also has his low point burned into his memory.
"The worst part was the box-out drill with Dennis Tinnon," he said. "As you can imagine, that was one of the worst days of my life. I think Coach made it worse by pinpointing that I wasn't rebounding. He could block out Shaq [O'Neal, not Johnson] if he wanted to."
Yes, Tinnon remembered that.
"I remember that; I won't lie. That day I got maybe 14 rebounds in a row," he said. "That drill is where he tells everybody to move in a circle, so whoever you get in front of is who you've got [to box out]. That day, I was an animal."