Aug 15, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Ryan Taylor has made plenty of baskets in the last year and a half. It’s just that none of them have really counted.
That changes today for Taylor, who rides a bus to Canada today to start a five-game exhibition tour for Marshall tonight with a game against Algoma University in Windsor, Ontario.
Maybe it’s appropriate that Coach Tom Herrion’s fourth Thundering Herd season unofficially begins in another country.
Of the 11 Herd players on this six-day jaunt, six are foreign to one another as gametime teammates. And one of the veterans, 7-foot-2 graduate student Yous Mbao, will play in only two games since he’s still bouncing back from arthroscopic left knee surgery this summer.
Taylor has been at Marshall for a year, having sat out last season. He spent hours and hours shooting and working on ball skills in the Henderson Center with new point guard Kareem Canty, who was in the same boat.
Taylor was a high school star in Indianapolis and Louisville, Ky., before spending a prep-school year playing for Coach A.W. Hamilton – a former Herd point guard – at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va.
“It seems like it’s been a really long time since I played in a game,” Taylor said.
That one didn’t end so well.
Hargrave, 38-0, faced Brewster (N.H.) Academy in the National Prep Showcase championship game on March 7, 2012 in New Haven, Conn. Brewster won, 87-76, after Taylor left the game with eight minutes to go with an ankle sprain.
It’s been a long 17 1/2 months without a game for the 6-foot-6 Taylor, who figures to bring the Herd a boost on the offensive end of the floor.
“I played well in that game,” said Taylor, who led Hargrave with 22 points and 10 rebounds – right at his prep-school season averages of 22 and 11. “My teammates tried to pull it out without me, and that’s the last organized game I ever played. It hurt to not be on the floor at the end.
“So, it has been a while. I’m excited for this trip. I have a lot of adrenalin pumping. I’m anxious to get out there and put things on the line, show what I can do. Even if it’s only an exhibition game, we have referees, clocks, everything.
“It will be our first time together as a team.”
Taylor and Canty will be two of the players that Herd fans might watch in particular on this voyage. Their names are familiar, since they’ve been around the program, but not really “in” it until this May.
“What I hope to show is that I go out and play my hardest, do whatever it takes to win, show people my game,” Taylor said. “I want us to try to come out with five wins, and even though I’m just a freshman here, I want to prove I can play with the older guys.
“I’m one of the new faces here, and there are a lot of us, and we want to show we can play together, no matter who’s on the floor. I think we’re all excited to finally play a game. We’re a young team, with only one returning starter (forward Elijah Pittman), and only two or three with decent playing time from last year, but I think once we jell, we’ll be fine.
“We won’t come out like the Miami Heat from this year in the first game, but we have the potential to be good here, once we jell together. The first 10 minutes will probably be the worst 10 minutes of our basketball careers here at Marshall, but other than that, once we get it together, we’ll be just fine.”
Herrion said Taylor isn’t alone is trying to find out how the retooled Herd team will mesh, and how the pieces will fit the puzzle.
“We’re still trying to figure that out,” Herrion said when asked how Taylor fits into MU plans. “He’s got such a unique skill package, very versatile. We’ve still got to figure out where to put him to play to his strength. We’ve got a lot of guys that I think are (like that).
“Ryan is showing great flashes and stretches in practice, things we felt were really important. He’s got a really good basketball feel on the offensive end of the floor. We can move him around a lot of different position. We’re really pleased with his progress.”
Taylor was asked – if he were a Herd hoops follower – which of his new teammates he’d be most intrigued to see play.
The response: sophomore forward TyQuane Goard, who sat out of game competition last season after transferring from Ohio University.
“He’s athletic; he plays hard every minute,” Taylor said of the 6-7, 206-pound Goard. “He can get the crowd into it with two or three tip-dunks, blocked shots … and he takes charges. He really doesn’t have a lot of offensive skills, but he makes up for it in everything else he does.
“At his height and his weight, he charges the glass like a big man, like he’s 7-foot. He takes charges, he never gets hurt and he’s willing to do anything to win. His basketball IQ is very high. He’s one of those kind of players where he’d rather play defense than get a bucket, rather get a steal and get it to somebody else for a dunk.”
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Herrion said Justin Edmonds, the 6-4 shooting guard who underwent knee surgery that ended his junior college season last December, won’t be on the trip. Edmonds will stay in Huntington and continue to rehab with head trainer Tom Belmaggio.
Mbao will only see action in two of the five games, and not in tonight’s opener, the Herd coach said.
“We’ll only have 10 1/2 guys, so to speak,” Herrion said. “Yous is our 11th on the trip.”
Herrion said the team’s most-recent newcomer, junior college transfer two-guard Chris Thomas, will arrive in time to start classes Aug. 26. “There’s not one glitch,” Herrion said. “It’s just timing right now. We’ll be gone. He’s qualified, eligible, all that.”
The Herd had its last of an NCAA-permitted 10 practices before a foreign tour on Thursday. The team left early today to bus to Detroit and cross the border into Ontario. Marshall will play two games in Windsor, one in London and two in Hamilton and bus home early next Wednesday.
“I can go through a long list of guys because of a lack of experience,” Herrion said when asked what players he was especially intrigued to see in game situations. “For me, these 10 days of practice have been great a great springboard for us.
“System-wise, schematically, we’re still so far away but the foundation of our identity as a team, our chemistry, our work ethic, our teamwork, our attitude has been phenomenal. The reward for the players is to go play five straight nights, which sounds nice, but it’s going to be taxing. I don’t have a barometer of the level of competition, but I’m not really concerned with that.
“We just have so many guys who haven’t played in a long time, or played period, and even some of the guys coming back … we talk about Tamron (Manning, sophomore guard) having experience, but it was not a lot. He played a lot late in the year.
“We’re just continuing to evolve and there are a lot of new pieces – and yet that excites me greatly. I just want them to go have fun and play the way they’ve practiced and I’ll then be pleased after we come back.”