MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — ‘Selection Tuesday’ for The Basketball Tournament produced a fair share a drama for the Marshall alumni team ‘Herd That’. Teams were unveiled one-by-one starting with the top seed. Stevie Browning and the rest of his Herd That teammates saw their logo pop up on the screen as the No. 23 seed.
“Guys were fighting for a shot at the 64-team field,” Browning said. “To be able to get into the field of 24, that was a big time blessing for sure. We have a chance to compete at a high level and show that we deserve to be in the 24.”
Browning will be reunited with former Marshall teammates Jon and Ot Elmore, C.J. Burks, Ryan Taylor and Rondale Watson. Chris Cokley (UAB), Jacorey Williams (Middle Tennessee State), Zach Smith (Texas Tech) and Ryan Luther (Pittsburgh/Arizona) round out the Herd That roster.
They are in the middle of a ten-day training camp with practices held in Charleston and at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs. The team will head to Columbus, Ohio for the 24-team TBT early next week.
“It has been a chance to play with a lot of guys that we played against in college and we saw play in college. They are guys we have a lot of respect for and a lot of game. It is a great atmosphere when we are practicing. Everyone is competitive and going at each other. We are learning how to play together and play as a team. We are starting to hit our stride.”
Herd That was scheduled to face No. 10 seed and WVU alumni squad Best Virginia in the opening round on July 5. After multiple players tested positive for COVID-19, Best Virginia has been replaced in the field ‘Playing for Jimmy V’.
“We all wanted to play them. It is too bad what happened but we can’t focus on that. We have to move towards our goal. And our goal is trying to win a million dollars. It doesn’t matter who we play. We have to be ready.”
In a normal basketball season, teams gear up with scrimmage or exhibition games. That luxury is not available to prepare for the single-elimination TBT.
“It puts a lot of pressure on us but as they say, pressure can either bust pipes or make diamonds. So it is put up or shut up time. This is what we have been working for. We have had a whole training camp to get the team chemistry going. I am pretty optimistic.”
Browning’s college career to a unique path. After gradating from Logan High School in the spring of 2012, he signed with Fairmont State. Browning started 56 games in two seasons with the Falcons and was named to the second team All-MEC roster as a sophomore.
When Dan D’Antoni arrived at Marshall in April of 2014, Browning accepted an offer to join the Herd, leaving him two years of eligibility in Huntington.
“I had the confidence in myself to know that I could do it. Making that transition, I didn’t know what it was going to be like. Because I almost didn’t go to Marshall. I almost went to East Tennessee State. God works in mysterious ways and the next thing I know, here I am playing with my brothers for a chance to win a million dollars.”
As a transfer, Browning was not eligible to play in the 2014-2015 season. But the team’s practice squad that winter had some star power.
“Dan does a really good job of in practice, making it look like games. We had a really good redshirt squad that year that we used as our practice squad. It was me, Jon (Elmore), James Kelly, Chris Duhon played with us a lot so we had a really good squad that year.”
Browning was an every-game starter for the Herd in his junior and senior seasons, averaging 19.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5 assists per game in his final season at Marshall.
Browning’s competitive fire was stoked in his years playing for the Logan Wildcats. He was a sophomore on LHS’ 2010 Class AAA state championship team that featured Division I talent.
“I was always playing behind somebody who was better than me. Whether is was Noah Cottrill or Paul Williamson or Deyonta Coleman, those were guys that were more physically developed at that age than I was.
“It made me realize that I had to work for it. It wasn’t just going to be handed to me. Obviously my time came in my senior year but had I not had to work so hard to get in that position because of the talent we had, who knows where I would be as an athlete or as a person.”
The team that wins the championship at The Basketball Tournament will split the one million dollar winner-take-all prize. Browning says a ‘team expense’ will come first before splitting the rest.
“The first thing is we are chartering a flight to Vegas. Whatever money we have left will get spent extremely wisely.”