HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—West Virginia has never been known as a hotbed for Division I athletes. That’s why when you look through the roster for any of Marshall’s athletic teams you’ll be hard pressed to find more than a handful of native West Virginians. It is easy to understand why ears perked up when new Marshall basketball coach Dan D’Antoni said he wanted to find the best players in West Virginia and bring them to Marshall.
Conventional wisdom says coaches need to find players outside of West Virginia to be competitive but D’Antoni is not concerned with following the status quo.
“Conventional wisdom, if you apply that then I would not have come to Marshall because I was not sought after,” said D’Antoni.
D’Antoni is right.
He was not a highly sought after prospect during high school days in Mullens, W.Va. nor was he a coveted as a college basketball coaching prospect when Athletics Director Mike Hamrick offered him the chance to lead the Thundering Herd. Now, D’Antoni is looking for players that reflect his attitude toward the program, athletes that bring a passion to the court and have a chip on the shoulder as well.
“A passion and a love of basketball and a love for this university goes hand in hand with winning. People want to say it is all about talent. From this level we have to have more than that if we’re going to be competing against the Kentucky’s, West Virginia’s and Louisville’s,” said D’Antoni.
“I don’t want to look across the floor and say we’re just this little school that can’t compete. They’re going to get some top-notch athletes. We have to beat them in how we train and how we work. On the fact we work hard in practice and that pride of being together and representing this university. If you put all that together then you’ve got a chance.”
Marshall signed Hedgesville’s C.J. Burks as a member of the 2014 recruiting class. Burks is the first scholarship player from West Virginia since Barboursville native Mark Patton donned the kelly green in the 2005-06 season. D’Antoni is not limiting his recruiting base to West Virginia but he does want to scour the state’s schools for players who may possess raw talent but have been overlooked by other schools.
“There are hits and misses in this state. We want to get all the ones who are hits and we want to be able to find the misses, who everyone looked over and we said this kid can become a player. And we have to be good at spotting that talent,” explained D’Antoni.
The fact of the matter is, at this point, Marshall is not going to attract the top prospects and D’Antoni needs to be able to evaluate talent and find the diamonds in the rough that can develop into impact players at the Division I level.
“Maybe these kids were a little bit behind earlier (in their careers), but they can catch up. And once they catch up and they have pride in the university we can compete with the so-called elite players in the country,” believes D’Antoni.