Herrion begins task of meshing influx of talent
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."
Goff was recently cleared after several months of recovering from a meniscus injury. He'll face a tough October getting back into full basketball shape, though Herrion said coaches and trainers will back him off when needed.
His conditioning isn't the only point of emphasis, by far. There is the matter of his free-throw shooting, which invited a "hack-a-Goff" strategy at times.
"I shoot at least 200, 250 a day," Goff said. "Can't be 46 percent this year. It was kind of keeping my elbow in and controlling the ball, instead of just throwing it. Big change."
DeAndre Kane, who enjoyed the Herd's season in a decade, is trying to address his shooting issues. He hit just 25 percent of his 3-point attempts a season ago, 31.8 percent as a freshman.
"Yes, the 3. Free throws, a lot of little things," Kane said of his offseason projects. "Off the ball, dribbling, one-dribble pull-ups, things like that."
And finally, the story of Tinnon and his teammates hearing about the NCAA ruling on his appeal on his 2012-13 eligibility. Tinnon contested the true start of his 10-semester "clock," an issue that centered on an aborted fall semester in 2007 at a North Dakota college.
After one of the new NCAA-sanctioned summer workouts, Tinnon and the team were summoned to Herrion's office to learn the ruling. Tinnon came out glum-faced.
Goff bought it. And apparently, Herrion pulled the same stunt on Tinnon, initially telling him his appeal was denied.
"I think Coach Herrion was trying to pull a joke on us," Goff said. "Dennis came out with his head down and he was like, 'I didn't get my year back.' Two minutes later, he told me he got it back."
Tinnon said, "Coach got me good, and I had to get somebody back. [Goff] was basically the first victim."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.