Former prep QB Dillon adjusts to hoops
HUNTINGTON — One year ago Jeremy Dillon was taking center snaps for the Mingo Central High School football team and preparing for his senior basketball season with the Miners.
He chose to play basketball in college, but football will always be in his system.
“I guess you’d say, yes, I miss football,” the former quarterback said last week before a Marshall University men’s basketball practice in Cam Henderson Center.
Dillon said he watches a lot of college football and the NFL.
But basketball is the game now for the 6-foot-5 guard forward from Delbarton, West Virginia, in Mingo County, which also produced Williamson High School star Mark Cline, now a veteran Marshall assistant coach. In 2011 Williamson was consolidated with Gilbert, Matewan and Burch high schools to form Mingo Central.
“If I was to play anywhere, here (Marshall University) is the place to play with the offense we’ve got,” Dillon said.
Dillon made a verbal pledge to the Marshall men’s basketball program as a high school junior and signed with the Thundering Herd as a senior in November 2017.
He was a highly acclaimed prep star with a resume that includes:
• 2015 Tug Valley High School freshman Class A basketball all-state third team.
• 2016 Tug Valley High School sophomore Class A basketball all-state first team.
• 2016-17 Mingo Central High School junior Class AA football all-state first team and Kennedy Award (state player of the year) winner.
• 2017 Mingo Central High School junior Class AA basketball all-state first team.
• 2018 Mingo Central High School senior Class AA basketball all-state first team.
• 2017-18 Mingo Central High School senior Class AA football all-state first team.
In two football seasons at Mingo Central, Dillon passed for 5,699 yards and 78 touchdowns while rushing for 2,551 yards and 44 scores.
He averaged about 20 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in two basketball seasons with the Miners.
Dillon explained how he performed such a juggling act while playing two sports and doing schoolwork.
“I guess I just always had a ball in my hand, so that made it easier,” he said. “About this time right now I’d start working out after football practice a few days of the week. It wouldn’t be every day of the week. A few days a week I’d get in the gym and put up shots. That’s what kept me into it.”
That schedule also had him arriving home at the end of some long days at 9 p.m. or later.
Dillon said he developed fundamentals in both sports by being active all the time. He was always playing something, basketball or football.
Marshall was the correct choice Dillon said because of the up-tempo, freewheeling, 3-point field goal shooting offense employed by head coach Dan D’Antoni that averaged 83.8 points a game (10th nationally) in the 2017-18 season when the Herd posted a 25-11 record, won the Conference USA championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Playing for the Herd is completely different from Mingo Central, where the Miners slowed things down and played old-school basketball, Dillon said.
“I think it’s the most fun offense I’ve ever been part of,” he said. “I like it a lot.”
D’Antoni said he likes what he’s seen from the freshman.
“Jeremy Dillon out of Mingo is a lot better than I thought he was,” D’Antoni said. “He’s going to be a major contributor here.”
Dillon said his biggest adjustment so far has been adjusting to the speed of the college game — and that doesn’t only involve running up and down the court. He said it’s a matter of gaining experience and learning how fast you have to think.
“In our offense you have to think so fast,” Dillon said. “He (D’Antoni) will get mad if you hesitate. He’d rather you just pull up and shoot it instead of hesitating.”
Marshall has completed one week of preseason practices. Dillon said at first it was slow going, but he’s beginning to catch on.
The Herd plays exhibition home games Oct. 28 and Nov. 1 against NCAA Division II teams Glenville State and West Virginia Wesleyan respectively before opening the season Nov. 7 against Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky.