BOGACZYK: Daniel Adds Guard to Young, Enthused Team
The Word on the Herd-April 16, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- After a postseason tournament appearance for the first time since the 1997 NCAA first round for Marshall women's basketball, Coach Matt Daniel continues to build for the future.
He added another player Wednesday, when 5-foot-9 combo guard Ama Arkoful of Vicksburg, Miss., signed a letter of intent, bringing the Thundering Herd's 2015-16 signing class to seven.
Back in November after the early signing period, Daniel's then haul of six was ranked as the No. 52 recruiting effort nationally by Blue Star Report, which follows women's hoops recruiting.
After a 17-15 finish and reaching the quarterfinals of the Women's Basketball Invitational, Daniel -- heading into his fourth season -- hopes to push a program rooted in regional talent to greater heights.
He's tailored the non-conference schedule to a young team in a rebuilding program. Daniel said the Herd still has three games to add, but to date, seven of the nine non-league games are at home. The others are "in the neighborhood" -- against Women's NIT runner-up West Virginia at the Charleston Civic Center, and a Nov. 13 season opener at Morehead State.
The roster, you ask? It's packed. Arkoful's signing brings the 2015-16 Herd to the 15-player scholarship maximum, and Daniel plans to bring in a walk-on that he can't discuss until proper paperwork is filed with MU.
That will be different from this season, when Daniel had only 10 players at his disposal. Marshall loses 2014-15 seniors Chukwuka "Chika" Ezeigbo, AJ Johnson and Aja Sorrells, and the Herd coach said junior transfer (UMBC) Ashley Lambert is leaving the program and plans to graduate this summer.
The eight returnees and seven grant-in-aid newcomers will be led by seniors Leah Scott and Norrisha "ReRe" Victrum.
Scott was the Herd's leading scorer (15.4 points) and No. 2 rebounder (6.6) and with Ezeigbo was an All-Conference USA second team selection. Victrum, a three-year starter at point guard, had her 2014-15 season curbed in late February by an ACL tear, followed by surgery late last month. She missed the final six games.
Besides the seven signees, Daniel also has two players who haven't yet performed for the Herd -- senior transfer (Cincinnati) Talequia Hamilton of Huntington and redshirt sophomore Taylor Porter of Fort Gay who played at Louisia County (Ky.) High and transferred from Murray State after an all-Freshman Team selection in the Ohio Valley Conference as a rookie.
Daniel's next team has eight scholarship players from the Mountain State or the Tri-State region.
As for Arkoful, ESPN HoopGurlz prospects list has her ranked with a 90 grade and the No. 31 point guard prospect nationally. Daniel said she eventually could play either guard spot or at the three.
"Last summer on her AAU team she was the starting point guard,' said Herd assistant coach Caronica Randle, who was the guard's primary recruiter. "She is very athletic, can shoot the three and mid-range jumper very well ... Great ball handler, and also skilled with or without the ball."
Daniel's team just began individual workout sessions on Wednesday, and he's anxious to see who steps up among the rookies to blend with a solid cast of returnees.
"It's a new team, a young team again," Daniel said, "and hopefully it will be a team a lot of our fans are familiar with. Hopefully, it's a team some of them know and more will get to know. We need people to get behind us, because it helps us.
"We'll have a lot of home games (15 to date, with the potential for one or two more), plenty of opportunities for people to come out and see us."
An 18-game Conference USA schedule (it won't be announced until this summer) will include nine home dates. Other home games are against Rhode Island, NJIT, Cornell, Alabama A&M, Norfolk State and a non-Division I foe, Crossroads College of Minnesota.
Another home game will be the back end date in the Morehead State Classic event, but that one will be at the Henderson Center. Daniel said Morehead State secures that Herd opponent.
"We've got two more to schedule besides that one," Daniel said. "We're working on it."
In the 16-team WBI, Marshall went to Northern Kentucky -- one of the top four seeds -- and won 81-79, then fell at Mercer in a heartbreaking 73-71 quarterfinal that the Herd led for nearly 36 minutes.
"The WBI; it's momentum for us," Daniel said. "It showed progress from where we were our first two years (9-21, 11-20 records). We beat a No. 1 seed on the road, went on the road again and almost won. We could have been in the semifinals... and without our starting point guard.
"We lost our last four (in the regular season and C-USA Tournament) without Victrum, and to lose a key player like that so late hurts a lot. But we got into the WBI and it really picked us up as we go forward."
The Herd women's basketball non-conference schedule to date:
13 -- at Morehead State; 15 -- home game TBA as part of Morehead State Classic; 18 -- Rhode Island; 22 -- NJIT; 27 -- Cornell.
5 -- Alabama A&M; 13 -- West Virginia at Charleston Civic Center; 20 -- Norfolk State; 22 -- Crossroads (Minn.).
Three games TBA (includes Nov. 15 home date)