MU basketball wraps up its memorable journey
HUNTINGTON — During timeouts next season during Marshall Thundering Herd men’s basketball games head coach Dan D’Antoni will look for Jon Elmore and realize the program’s all-time scoring leader isn’t there.
The same thing for Marshall career top-five scorer C.J. Burks. Likewise for Rondale Watson and Christian Thieneman.
“They changed the culture of Marshall basketball,” D’Antoni said Saturday in his remarks at the End of Year Awards Reception in the St. Mary’s Conference Center attended by about 300 family members, supporters, administrators, staff and players.
One prominent person in the crowd was Marshall President Jerry Gilbert, who D’Antoni introduced as his singing buddy after they stood in front of the pep band and led a chorus of the alma mater after every game.
Marshall also had a prospect at the reception, 7-foot Goran Miladinovic from Hoosac School in New York, whom the Herd is hoping to land when the National Letter of Intent signing period begins Wednesday.
Elmore, Burks, Watson and Thieneman were
the Herd seniors who helped carry the team to a 23-14 record and the CollegeInsider.com Tournament championship. They were also part of winning the 2018 Conference USA championship and getting to the NCAA Tournament second round.
Marshall’s “season” began last summer with an exhibition trip to the Bahamas before games tipped off in November.
The Herd took some non-conference losses early, but bounced back to open its C-USA schedule at 5-0. More losses followed at midseason. Then the Herd finished strong by winning 10 of its 11 final games.
Winning four games in the CIT gave the program only its second national tournament title and the first since capturing the small-college NAIB crown in 1947.
“It was a long journey,” D’Antoni said. “It was a long ride. We lost our legs a little bit (at midseason), but didn’t lose our heart. I thank the athletic department for allowing us to play (in the CIT). I think it worked out well for everybody.”
D’Antoni said the CIT was 26 teams, all with winning records. Marshall came out on top and it wasn’t a cheap victory.
Kathy D’Antoni, the head coach’s sister, ended the reception by reading a poem she wrote titled “The Journey.”
Burks, a guard from Martinsburg, West Virginia, was recipient of the Hal Greer Most Outstanding Player Award, named in honor of a Marshall all-time great. Burks was chosen as the CIT Most Valuable Player. He averaged 17.7 points for the season and climbed to fifth place in Herd history with 1,892 points.
Elmore was honored with the Mike D’Antoni Mr. Marshall Award after the point guard from Charleston set school career and conference records with 2,638 points, 783 assists and 356 made 3-point field goals. He led the Herd with a season average of 20.3 points per game. Mike D’Antoni is the younger brother of Dan D’Antoni and also a former Marshall point guard who coaches the NBA Houston Rockets.
The Tamar Slay Excellence Award named for a former Marshall star went to freshman forward Taevion Kinsey of Columbus who averaged 10.5 points and 4.0 rebounds a game.
Sophomore guard Jarrod West, from Clarksburg, West Virginia, was the Bob Allen Toughman Award winner. West established a program record with 80 steals while scoring 5.6 points. Allen is a former teammate of Dan D’Antoni.
Jannson Williams, a sophomore forward from Newman, Georgia, received the Charlie Slack Toughman Award that honors a Herd player who holds the NCAA record of 25.6 rebounds in one season. Williams contributed 9.0 points and led the squad with 5.1 rebounds per game.
THUNDERING HERD MEN’S BASKETBALL HONORS
TAMAR SLAY EXCELLENCE AWARD: Taevion Kinsey
BOB ALLEN TOUGHMAN AWARD: Jarrod West
CHARLIE SLACK TOUGHMAN AWARD: Jannson Williams
MIKE D’ANTONI MR. MARSHALL AWARD: Jon Elmore
HAL GREER MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER AWARD: C.J. Burks