Beyers coming along slowly for Herd
HUNTINGTON — Mikel Beyers pulled down six rebounds and blocked two shots in a Marshall Thundering Herd men’s basketball victory Monday against Morehead State.
It didn’t seem like much, but it’s a start.
Ajdin Penava had a similar start at Marshall, bumping along early in his career, before blossoming into an all-conference player last season and leaving school early for a professional career in Europe.
“I knew he (Penava) was going to be good, and I think Beyers is going to be good, but I don’t know when,” Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “I do think before he gets out of here, Mikel Beyers is going to be a terror.”
Beyers is a 6-foot-9 sophomore transfer from Mesa Community College in Arizona who came to the Herd with three years of eligibility. He was a late arrival in the summer because of junior college academic commitments and didn’t go with the team on an exhibition trip to the Bahamas.
His court time was limited until Monday’s game, when he played a season-high 16 minutes in the 76-64 defeat of Morehead State. He’s averaging 2.6 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.
“There has definitely been an adjustment period,” Beyers said. “I feel like I’m starting to pick up on it. It’s just buying in and giving everything I’ve got while I’m out there. I think I’ve adjusted to the offense and how everything moves. It’s just picking up the game speed from junior college to (NCAA) Division I.”
D’Antoni is still looking to solidify the fifth spot in the starting lineup as Marshall (6-4) is on the road for a 2 p.m. Saturday game against the Akron Zips (6-3) at James A. Rhodes Arena in Akron, Ohio. Beyers could be the man if he plays with energy and is active on the court, D’Antoni said.
Beyers said he’s feeling more comfortable and isn’t afraid to do something wrong.
“I experienced that a lot last year where I would play scared to make a mistake,” he said. “With the offense and the way that we play there is a lot of freedom. As long as you do your part and you’re not ruining everything else, you’re not going to be taken out for anything like that.”
Marshall is embarking on a stretch of five consecutive road games and won’t play again at home until Jan. 12. The road winds through Akron, Texas A&M, No. 6 Virginia, Old Dominion and Charlotte. The next game is always biggest, but D’Antoni said the most important stops in the coming weeks are at Old Dominion and Charlotte because they’re C-USA games.
D’Antoni said it’s difficult to decide who should be playing and for how long because Marshall has been so inconsistent.
Senior point guard Jon Elmore is consistent most of the time and he leads Marshall with 21.0 points and 5.0 assists a game. Elmore has hit for 20 or more points in seven games this season and 99 times in 106 career games. Senior guard C.J. Burks for the most part is consistent and his inconsistency is still at a high level, D’Antoni said. Burks averages 18.5 points and scored at least 10 in all 10 games.
“We haven’t shown enough consistency in the new guys,” the coach said. “Iran (Bennett) played only nine minutes (against Morehead State). Jannson (Williams) had a good game, but a game before that wasn’t good. (Darius) George went to sleep the last game. I didn’t know where he was.”
Akron has shown signs of being better than a 6-3 team because its losses were all close. Clemson and Illinois State beat Akron at the Cayman Islands Classic by three and five respectively. Purdue-Fort Wayne won a home game against the Zips by three. The six wins were against Cedarville, Youngstown State, Chicago State, St. Bonaventure, Alabama State and Detroit Mercy.
In its last outing Dec. 5 at Purdue-Fort Wayne, the Zips shot 32.8 percent from the field.
Daniel Utomi, a 6-6 junior forward for the Zips, scores 1 5.4 per ga me, gets 6. 8 rebounds and shoots 35.1 percent on 3-pointers. Jimond Ivey (6-5 senior guard) scores 13.0 a game and leads the squad with 7.2 rebounds.
Loren Cristian Jackson is a 5-8 sophomore providing 12.8 points and 3.8 assists while making 31.1 percent of his 3-point attempts. Tyler Cheese (6-5 junior) and Channel Banks (6-4 junior) contribute 9.2 and 9.0 points respectively. Banks is a 40.5 percent 3-point shooter. Six-foot-10 junior Deng Riak averages 7.8 points.
John Groce is in his second season as Akron’s head coach. In 11 seasons at Ohio, Illinois and Akron, he has had three NCAA Tournament teams. Former Huntington Prep head coach Rob Fulford, a Mullens, West Virginia, native, is an Akron assistant coach.
Akron leads the Marshall series 14-12. The Zips have six consecutive wins at home against the Herd.
MARSHALL (6-4) at AKRON (6-3)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: James A. Rhodes Arena, Akron, Ohio
Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM