New Marshall basketball coach Dan D’Antoni hails from nearby Mullens, W.Va. Both he and his brother Mike played for the Thundering Herd in Huntington.
He knows all too well that some basketball players from the Mountain State get overlooked.
That is why D’Antoni and his staff, including Williamson native Mark Cline, are looking at more players from the region. Not only are they looking for student athletes from W.Va., but also players from eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio.
Cline recruited Hedgesville High School guard Calvin “CJ” Burks, a Class AAA All-State selection, who became the first in-state high school men’s basketball signee for Marshall in more than 13 years.
D’Antoni is apparently interested in a pair of Poca High School players. He will reportedly visit sophomore-to-be Luke Frampton. The Dot’s Elijah Cuffee, who just finished his freshman season, has already visited Huntington.
Poca plays Mingo Central and both of these kids played against the Miners twice last season, once up on the mountaintop gym located along the King Coal Highway. Local fans got a chance to see the two Cardinal Conference players and will get to watch them the next three seasons.
D’Antoni has already offered a scholarship to South Charleston’s Brandon Knapper, who is coming off his sophomore season with the Black Eagles.
The Charleston Gazette reported that Marshall is also interested in Wheeling Central standout Chase Harler. He would be in the signing class of 2016.
“It’s important we have in-state, and I’d say, regional guys - West Virginia, Kentucky, southwest Pennsylvania, southeast Ohio, eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina,” said D’Antoni, who starred on Herd teams in the late ‘60s that were stocked with those Mountain State and surrounding-state players. “
Shane Hall, a 6’8” forward who signed with the Herd last November, is from Prestonsburg, Ky. and Johnson Central High School. He was also recruited by Cline.
Walk-on Brett Bowling is from Wyoming East High in the coalfields, the same county D’Antoni and his brother played high school basketball.
Guard Austin Loop walked on from southeast Ohio and was on scholarship last semester. Forward TyQuane Goard, who came to MU as a transfer from Ohio, played high school hoops in Charleston.
So when you hear the PA announcer belt out “Bring on the Herd” in the next few seasons, you will likely see more home grown talent wearing the green and white in the Henderson Center.
West Virginia was interested in Xavier transfer Justin Martin, a 6’ 6” guard who is said to have versatile skills. He only had one year of eligibility remaining, but was apparently coveted by the Mountaineers following the departures of Eron Harris and Terry Henderson.
Martin averaged 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds as a junior for Xavier’s team that reached the NCAA tourney. Martin has decided to take his talent to SMU and play for Larry Brown.
Martin had also visited Florida State and had scheduled a trip to Morgantown.
Now the WVU coaching staff has its sights on Billydee Williams, a JUCO guard who played in South Plains College in Levelland, Texas this past year. The 6’6” athletic guard could be a diamond in the rough. He helped lead the South Plains team, a member of the Western Junior College Athletic Conference, to a 29-6 record.
Williams is reportedly a good shooter and can score off the bench. This might give the Mounties some needed scoring punch off the pines in Bob Huggins rotation.
(Kyle Lovern is the Sports Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-235-4242, ext. 33 or Twitter @KyleLovern)