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Let’s bring Taft back this weekend

January 10, 2019

This is Basketball Alumni Weekend at Marshall University.

So, with that in mind, which former Thundering Herd basketball star would everybody like to see come back and attend Marshall’s big game against Western Kentucky at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Cam Henderson Center?

Josh Perkey, lifelong die-hard fan and former Marshall basketball player, has his hand up.

OK, Perk, who do you want? “John Taft,” he said without hesitation. “When I was 11 years old, he was my Jon Elmore.”

Good answer.

It seems Taft hasn’t attended a Marshall home basketball game in 11 years. The Huntsville, Alabama, native’s last visit apparently was for Marshall’s game against Memphis in front of a sellout crowd of 9,043 in The Cam on Jan. 14, 2008.

Taft was in Huntington to be inducted into Marshall’s athletic Hall of Fame.

But since then? No sightings.

That’s why it would be nice to see the former 6-foot-1, 205-pound guard who starred at Marshall in 1988-91. Taft finished his career as the second-leading scorer in Marshall history with 2,332 points. As a senior, Taft was eighth in the nation in scoring with a 27.3 average.

He is an icon.

That’s why Marshall’s current players would like to know more about Taft.

“I definitely have heard his name a bunch of times,” said sophomore guard Jarrod West. “Even talking with coaches and people like that, his name is definitely around Marshall’s history. You see it around, you hear it and you know he was a good player here.

“Obviously, allowing him to come back would be very . . . it would be nice, man. Just being able to see him would be great. And not just us as players, everybody. I think it would be good for all the fans and everybody just to be able to see him around us. I think that would be good for us.”

It would be good for Taft, too, because it would allow young players like Marshall true freshman Taveion Kinsey to learn about him.

Which is more than Kinsey knew about Taft when he was questioned about Marshall’s former star.

“Um, really never heard of him,” replied Kinsey when asked if Taft’s name meant anything to him. Precisely what I expected. But, then, the conversation took an abrupt, unexpected turn that became intriguing.

“Wait a minute — No. 22?” said Kinsey, pointing to the rafters at the west end of the Henderson Center where the retired jerseys are displayed. “I actually asked for No. 22 when I first got here because it’s my mom’s favorite number. But they told me I couldn’t have it because it was already retired.”

Then there’s Jon Elmore, the Herd’s resident historian.

“Marshall legend,” he said. “He’s just one of those guys you look up to — on the wall, in the locker room, stuff like that, and you hear a lot of stories about him.”

So would it be fun to meet Taft in the flesh?

“Oh, it would be huge,” said Elmore. “I think when I graduate, I’m going to want to come back as much as possible. I think it’s cool for guys here to meet those guys that came before them and kind of pay their respects and honor them a little bit.

“I’m sure the crowd would be fired up to see him as well.”

Listening out there, John Taft?

Let’s hope so.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.