HUNTINGTON - As Tom Herrion puts it, "It's like hide and seek - ready or not, here we come."
Ready or not, Marshall basketball hurtles itself into the great unknown tonight.
The program's 103rd season tips off at 7 tonight at Cam Henderson Center, with South Carolina State supplying the opposition. Beyond that, there are few certainties on a team with so many new parts.
Perhaps the most notable is this: Herrion, the Thundering Herd's fourth-year coach, says he loves coaching this team, and he does seem energized. The Herd was able to get a jump on the season with a brief summer tour of southern Ontario, and Herrion has enjoyed guiding the team through preseason practice.
There are nine newcomers running on a new $156,500 hardwood floor. The returnees, and those who were in town but watched from a distance, are determined to rid themselves of the agony of last season's messy 13-19 record.
"I want them to play loose, aggressive and confident every night out," Herrion said. "Conversely, there's a chip on our shoulder, too. I want our kids to play with a chip on their shoulder. Some of it's the unknown, in terms of so many new guys, guys who haven't done a lot at the college level yet."
You could field an interesting starting five with those new to Division I hoops - try Kareem Canty at point, Chris Thomas at the "two," Shawn Smith at the small forward, Ryan Taylor at power forward and Cheik Sane in the middle. You can throw in shooting guard Justin Edmonds, if healthy.
Canty and Taylor are the two nonqualifiers with a considerable amount of hype. Canty's declaration of ineligibility threw a wet blanket on the point-guard position, and Taylor could make the phrase "double-double" even more cliché than it already is.
"He's a man. He's a strong man, too," said Elijah Pittman, the Herd's only returning starter, of Taylor. "He's a horse."
Thomas is the intriguing late recruit. Shawn Smith is another junior-college shooter and Sane may give the Herd a better offensive threat underneath.