The Marshall men’s basketball team has won five of its last six games and has been one of the hottest teams in Conference USA during the last several weeks of play, and a big reason for the Thundering Herd’s surge in the standings has been the play of junior Taevion Kinsey.
Kinsey, a 6-foot-5 guard from Columbus, Ohio, was named to the All-Conference USA Second Team as a sophomore, but this season has taken his game to another level. Since opening the season in late November against Arkansas State, Kinsey’s per game scoring average has only dipped below 20 points three times. Marshall (12-5, 6-4 C-USA) is currently third in C-USA’s East Division behind Western Kentucky (15-4, 8-2 C-USA) and Old Dominion (11-5, 7-3 C-USA). The Herd has six league games remaining — two at Rice on Friday and Saturday followed by two each at home in the following weeks against North Texas and Charlotte.
As things currently sit, Kinsey is tied as C-USA’s leading scorer along with UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson at 20.4 points per game and is fourth in the conference with a 56.9 field goal percentage.
In Marshall’s pair of wins over the weekend against visiting Middle Tennessee the junior scored 25 points in each game. The week before that, he put up 22 and 17 in a road split at Old Dominion.
“At ODU in the first half the referee came by and said, ‘Where did you get that kid?'” MU coach Dan D’Antoni said. “I think [Kinsey] was 7 for 7 and we had a 30 point lead — and you know what kind of teammate he was? He wasn’t aggressive and he let the ball move to other people. Just a terrific individual and a great player.”
One Marshall player who perhaps knows Kinsey best is senior guard Jarrod West.
The Clarksburg native and former Evans Award winner as the top high school boys basketball player in West Virginia at Class A Clarksburg Notre Dame — where he was also a state champion — has had a front row seat to watch Kinsey develop during his time in Huntington and made a close friend in the process.
West, who currently leads C-USA at 6.4 assists per game, is at his best when Kinsey is at his best. In Saturday’s win against MTSU that was the case again for MU when Kinsey scored 25 while West finished with a career-high 29.
“Since Taevion stepped on campus, we became friends for real,” West said. “From the moment he got here in the summer and living in the dorms I just feel like we kind of clicked since then. Taevion has been good all year but his efficiency, man, for a guard is crazy. He’s crazy efficient. What I like about Taevion is for as good of a player as he is, he doesn’t force the game. He doesn’t try to do things that he feels like he can’t do.
“I’m blessed to play with a guy like Taevion. He’s really good. He’s special and he’s got a great future ahead of him. ”
D’Antoni echoed West’s sentiment about who efficient Kinsey is. According to the Hollinger ESPN Player Efficiency Ratings, Kinsey ranks fourth in C-USA with a 25.81 PER and is the highest rated guard in that category in the league.
The Marshall coach, who spent time on several NBA staffs before returning to take over the program at his alma mater, said he thinks Kinsey has what it takes to play professionally when the time comes — whether that is sooner or later, however, will be up to Kinsey.
“Taevion is a pro player,” D’Antoni said. “If he stays, that’s great. If he goes, we’ll miss him but I’m proud of him. He has to be one of the most efficient players ever at Marshall University from a guard position. Sometimes you’ll get a big man with inflated efficiency numbers — put backs, drop offs and things of that nature. [Kinsey] is getting his all over the place from a guard spot. Great player, great young man, great teammate.”