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Bulked up Kinsey one of several Marshall players looking to make most of added strength

— By Bill Cornwell

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall basketball coach Dan D’Antoni cites the need for quickness and the courage to shoot from anywhere at any point as key parts of his ‘Hillbilly Ball’ offense.

Entering his eighth year guiding the Thundering Herd, D’Antoni says strength can be added to the equation.

Despite compiling a 15-7 record and 9-5 mark in Conference USA during a shortened 2020-2021 season as a result of the pandemic, Marshall was often handled on the interior by stronger and more experienced teams.

In Conference USA, returning players such as Taevion Kinsey, Obinna Anochili-Killen, Goran Miladinovic and Mikel Beyers were at a disadvantage physically against powerful opponents in Western Kentucky, Louisiana Tech and league champion North Texas.

Fast forward to this fall and D’Antoni is excited about what he believes is a suddenly stronger and tougher group.

Anochili-Killen has added 15 pounds of muscle and Miladinovic has bulked up 20 pounds. They’ve also improved more than their frame.

“Obinna is shooting the ball better than he’s ever been,” D’Antoni said. “Goran has added all good weight.”

D’Antoni is pleased with the strength and skill improvement of Kinsey, the Herd’s leader this season from a production and experience standpoint.

A year ago, Kinsey averaged 19.5 points and 6.2 rebounds and shot better than 53 percent from the field.

Kinsey considered entering the NBA Draft before deciding to return for a final year in Huntington. A preseason All-Conference USA player, Kinsey added 15 pounds to his slight frame in the offseason and hopes to improve on the impressive numbers from last season.

Guard Jarrod West, the Herd’s second-leading scorer last season, transferred to play his final year at Louisville, only adding to the importance of Kinsey’s production in the upcoming campaign.

“He tested at 44 inches,” D’Antoni said of Kinsey’s vertical leap. “That’s good. That’s good for pros or college. His shot is quicker. He gets the ball out of his hands quicker. We’ve already had nine or ten NBA scouts call to come in and see him. There’s a good chance he can be Marshall’s first first-round draft choice since Russell Lee.”

Lee was a first-round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in 1972.

Point guard Andrew Taylor will be counted on to handle the ball and provide scoring punch after he averaged 12 points, 5.8 rebounds and four assists last season. With West no longer around, Taylor will likely assume a bigger role.

Marshall plays a home exhibition game October 31 against Division II Davis & Elkins at 2 p.m. After another exhibition game November 7 against the University of Pikeville, the Herd begins the regular season November 12 against Wright State at Cam Henderson Center.

The Herd’s first five games are at home, before a November 27 matchup at Indiana.

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