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May 30, 2012
Followers of Marshall women's basketball by now are getting familiar with new head coach Matt Daniel.
The 35-year-old left the head coaching job at the University of Central Arkansas, where the Sugar Bears went 24-7 and played in the WNIT last season, to become Marshall's sixth coach.
Daniel replaces Royce Chadwick, who left after 11 seasons to return to his Lone Star State roots as head coach at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Most who follow the sport likely know by now Daniel was Mr. Basketball in the state of Arkansas and turned down Billy Donovan's first scholarship offer as Marshall coach to take a scholarship to the University of Colorado.
Daniel brought a level of enthusiasm to his welcoming press conference Tuesday, displaying an infectious personality that could win over Herd fans. He even handed out a "Home for Higher Hoops" and "Full-Tilt Basketball" guide to media members, outlining his philosophy to developing a winning basketball program.
"If we play too slow, I sit down because I'm bored; we want to play fast," Daniel said. "We do not play full-court basketball; we play full-tilt basketball. We want to tilt the basketball floor; we want to run downhill on offense and make them run uphill on offense.
"We want stops and scores and scores and stops and high-fives and handshakes and finger points and smiles. We are going to play hard, and we are going to play smart, and we are going to play together, but I want to have a whole lot of fun. That's what I came to do."
Let's delve deeper into Daniel's success at UCA, a school perhaps best known for producing former NBA star Scottie Pippen.
One of the knocks many in the fanbase had against Chadwick, who saw an initial surge in relevancy upon his 2001 arrival but then seemed to lose the common fan shortly after joining Conference USA, was the reliance on junior college transfers.
Members left on the 2012-2013 squad at UCA had no junior college transfers. The only transfer was from Harding College, ironically where Daniel transferred to after leaving Colorado.
Another knock against the previous regime was the lack of local players. After Keshawna Curry of Huntington, Meg Withrow of Nitro and Jill Justice (daughter of Jim Justice) of Lewisburg, the Herd struggled to land in-state prospects. There was no way the Herd would land Alexis Hornbuckle (South Charleston/Tennessee), Renee Montgomery (South Charleston/Connecticut) or Whitney Bays (Huntington/Maryland), but several players did get away.
Telequia Hamilton (Huntington/Cincinnati), Kara Pollinger (Tolsia/Navy), Kendra Wallace (Nitro/South Carolina-Upstate) are several names that have been mentioned as Marshall misses. Granted, the Herd beat Cincinnati in Huntington last year, and the Naval Academy is a prestigious and honorable opportunity, but there was a major disconnect between the Marshall program and the players who came in from across the country.
A look at Daniel's roster at Central Arkansas shows six Arkansas natives out of 12 returning players. The population difference of Arkansas and West Virginia should be noted, but that does show the new Marshall coach's preference for in-state recruiting.
"We can do everything we can to protect home base," Daniel said. "We will do everything in our power to keep talent at home. It is important coaches -- high school, AAU, junior college, whoever you may be -- that we box out the competition and protect home court."
Speaking of home court, the Sugar Bears were an impressive 16-0 at home last season, including wins over Indiana and Alabama.
The next question is style of play. What does "full-tilt basketball" look like when in motion?
That will not be seen until November, but statistically, the Sugar Bears scored 66 points per game last season, led by 5-foot-11 forward Megan Herbert's 17.2 average to go with 11.3 rebounds per contest. Teams scored just 55 points per game against UCA, with the Sugar Bears owning a plus-2.5 turnover margin per game.
Can Daniel take the program to the next level? Marshall loses three seniors from a team that finished seventh in Conference USA after being picked to finish last in the 12-team league. Daniel's first team at Central Arkansas went 6-23, but chances are, he will have more to work with immediately in Huntington than he did originally in Conway, Arkansas.
Ryan Epling is an analyst with Herd Nation. Comments and questions are welcomed and encouraged on the Old Fairfield forum.