Marshall has had some of its best teams in program history since Dan D’Antoni took over as the Thundering Herd’s head coach in 2014 with no shortage of former Mountain State high school stars helping lead the way. In 2020, Marshall is off to a 5-1 start and again has a handful of in-state standouts chipping in.
The Thundering Herd won the Conference USA tournament and broke a decades long streak of not making the NCAA tournament in 2018 thanks sizeable contributions from former George Washington and South Charleston star Jon Elmore (who finished his collegiate career as Conference USA’s all-time leader in scoring and assists) and C.J. Burks — a member of Hedgesville High’s 2012 Class AAA state championship team as a sophomore and an first team All-State pick as a senior.
Jarrod West played as a freshman on that Marshall team, and now as a senior the former Notre Dame High state champion is leaned on as a leader in his role as the Thundering Herd’s point guard — and like Elmore has his name in the school record book as MU’s all-time leader in steals.
If that name sounds familiar to West Virginia University fans, West’s father has the same name and hit a buzzer-beater against Bob Huggins and Cincinnati in Boise, Idaho to send the Mountaineers to the 1998 Sweet Sixteen.
The elder West was his son’s high school coach at Class A Notre Dame in Clarksburg and was in the Cam Henderson Center on Sunday to see him put on a show.
In the previous game, Marshall suffered its lone loss of the season in overtime against Toledo, and West took it personally. On Sunday against visiting Robert Morris he finished with 14 points, eight assists, nine rebounds and seven steals in an 85-71 win against the Colonials.
“The good thing is that I’ve played in a lot of games,” West said after the game. “We’ve got a lot of experience on the team. We’ve had bad losses and we can’t dwell on them. The most important thing is moving on and learning from it. A lot of that comes with growth and maturity.”
D’Antoni said he has seen that growth and maturity in his senior point guard, and it was on display Sunday.
“I think [West] took it real personal because he had the last shot [against Toledo] and missed it,” D’Antoni said. “He takes it personal and feels responsible. It’s a long season and sometimes you sacrifice things early to create confidence so that you not only grow as a team, but as an individual.”
West is not the only former West Virginia high school player putting in work for the Herd in 2020. Marshall’s roster features seven players from West Virginia high schools — West, Jeremy Dillon (Mingo Central), Obinna Anochili-Killen (Chapmanville), C.J. Meredith (Spring Valley), Ty Sturm (Cabell Midland), David Early (Logan) and Devin Collins (Chapmanville).
Several of those players have seen playing time early this season, and that group has been highlighted by a 15-point performance Sunday against RMU by Anochili-Killen. Listed at 6-foot-8 and 199 pounds and originally from Nigeria, the true freshman played 23 minutes against the Colonials and went 9 of 10 at the foul line in the win.
“[Anochili-Killen] is just growing,” D’Antoni said. “He’s going to get better and he is athletic. I think the more he does this, the more he will grow in all aspects of the game. He is easy to coach, and he wants to be good. When you’ve got a young man that is willing to be coached and work hard, he is going to make you look good as a coach.”