Basketball

Daniel Resigns as Marshall Women’s Basketball Coach

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HUNTINGTON — Marshall head women’s basketball coach Matt Daniel has resigned, the athletics department announced Sunday. Daniel, a native of Jonesboro, Ark., departs after posting 71 wins in his five seasons. During his tenure, he led the school to two of its three modern postseason appearances as a NCAA program. The Herd went to the WBI in 2015 — picking up the program’s first postseason win during that era with an upset of No. 1 seeded Northern Kentucky — and its second trip to the WNIT in 2016, 35 years after the first trip to the WNIT in 1971. That season, his Thundering Herd piled up 21 wins, Marshall’s most in nearly three decades, allowing him to be named to the inaugural Conference USA Coaches Circle.

That season, his Thundering Herd piled up 21 wins, Marshall’s most in nearly three decades, allowing him to be named to the inaugural Conference USA Coaches Circle. “I am so thankful for our time here,” said Daniel. “Having both of our daughters born here, this place will always be special to us. Given my wife’s work as a dentist, we were offered an opportunity to return home to Arkansas that we couldn’t pass up.

“While I don’t know what the future holds for me professionally, this decision really isn’t about me. I am doing what I believe is best for us and giving our children the opportunity to grow up around their extended family.

“I can’t underscore enough how much I appreciate the people at Marshall understanding the importance of this situation. It reflects how much they truly get it and I will be around for another week or so to say the proper goodbyes.”

MUWBSKB 2016-17 Game 927 Feb. 25, 2017 Lost 89-75 to Charlotte, Matt Daniel and 3 Srs., (left) McKenzie Akers, Talequia Hamilton and Kiana Evans

Matt Daniel, seen with (from left) McKenzie Akers, Talequia Hamilton, and Kiana Evans on Senior Day last month, has resigned as the head coach at Marshall University. (Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry)

In 2016-17, Marshall connected on a school-record 237 3-pointers and began the season with a 55-53 win at Illinois, the program’s first win over a Power 5 school in nearly a decade. He also coached Leah Scott, who became the Thundering Herd’s first first-team Conference USA honoree in 2016.

In Daniel’s second season, his Thundering Herd became the lowest seed to advance in a conference tournament as a 16 seed. Marshall defeated ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic 80-73 in the opening round of the 2014 Conference USA Tournament.

On his watch, Marshall gradually increased its proficiency in virtually every offensive category over the course of his five seasons. His teams also set and broke multiple program scoring and 3-point records. The Thundering Herd made the most of an exciting system that emphasized perimeter offense.

Recruiting was a cornerstone of his time in Huntington, with a renewed commitment to signing local talent. That yielded the nation’s 34th-ranked class in 2017 and a rating of No. 52 in 2016.

Marshall also excelled in the classroom in the past five seasons, as it placed 28 members on the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll (3.0 cumulative GPA or better) and three more were given the Commissioner’s Academic Medal (3.75).

“On behalf of everyone associated with Marshall Athletics, I want to thank Matt for his contribution to our women’s basketball program,” said Marshall Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick. “He and his staff have shepherded a new level of success into our program, with back-to-back postseason appearances and the first 20-win season. Marshall has always been a place where family comes first so, of course, we understand and support Matt’s decision.”

Daniel came to Huntington from Central Arkansas, where he coached four years and piled up three seasons of at least 21 wins. He led those Sugar Bears to a 2011 trip to the WBI and had a 2012 campaign that ended with a regular season Southland Conference title and a berth in the WNIT.

The Herd has lost two players from this year’s squad, senior Kiana Evans, who played at Huntington High scholastically, and redshirt junior McKenzie Akers of Princeton, W.Va., who has graduated and is headed to nursing school. Another senior, Talequia Hamilton, is also from HHS locally and transferred by to Marshall from Cincinnati. Hamilton is a mother of a toddler and Daniel was attempting to get another year of eligibility for Hamilton to play in the 2017-18 season. The Herd also lost Maddie Morris, a Huntington native who played at Spring Valley HS, to injuries to her knees in the past two seasons for the sophomore.

Marshall, who went 13-17 this year and fell to 5-13 in Conference USA, just made it into the C-USA Basketball Championship as the 12-seeded in the 12-team tournament (two schools miss the tournament). The Herd lost to No. 5 Charlotte on the first day of the tournament in Birmingham, Ala., 71-66.

The Herd returns junior to be Shayna Gore, from Logan, W.Va., the team’s leading scorer at 17.5 points per game as well as leading the team in assists with 87 and steals with 55. Hamilton averaged 12.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, along with 54 blocks in 30 games (she and Gore were only members of team to start all 30 games) if she is granted a 6th year by the NCAA and redshirt senior to be Taylor Porter, from nearby Louisa, Ky., who started 12-of-21 games she played and averaged 8.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

Other returning players include the freshmen forward Jovana Vucetic of Serbia, guard Asheika Alexander, guard Tana Driver and forward Ashley Saintigene, who made the C-USA All-Frosh team. Sophomores returning include guard Logan Fraley (from nearby Ashland, Ky.), guard/forward Khadaijia Brooks and Gore.

The Herd signing class was ranked 34th in the country and the highest of any Conference USA schools. “Extremely excited about this recruiting class,” Daniel said last November. “It is also nice to know that other people are taking notice of our effort by having a class ranked #34 in the country.”

 The three players who have signed their National Letter of Intent (NLI) to join the Herd are Kristen Mayo (Grayson, Ky.), Taylor Pearson (Columbus, Ohio) and Brie Toney (Columbus, Ohio). “The young ladies that signed paperwork early average a 25 on the ACT, and we have a couple of others that are sorting through their academics,” Daniel said. “We can comment on three of them, and we have three others committed. I believe this recruiting class, at its core, is one of the toughest in the country and very versatile.”

Mayo stars as a point guard for East Carter High School in Grayson, Ky. The point guard has been named all-district, all-conference, and all-area six times. She is a two-time conference defensive player of the year and a two-time conference player of the year. Mayo has been voted the Lady Raider Defensive Player of the Year twice and the Lady Raider Player of the Year once. She holds school career records in steals, assists, three-point field goals made and points. Mayo has been outstanding in the classroom as a Distinguished Scholar for three years with a GPA of 4.0 or above.

Pearson averages 12 points and 15 rebounds per game as a combo forward for Northland High School in Columbus. She is a three-time first team all-city honoree and a two-time MVP. Pearson was named a Top-10 District Player and led the district in rebounds. She is seventh on her school’s all-time scoring list and set the program record for most points in a season as a sophomore. Another star off the field, Pearson has a 4.2 cumulative GPA, is the President of the Student Senate, is a member of the National Honor Society and was twice honored as the CYF Best All-Around Student.

Toney averaged 18.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game as a forward for Bexley High School in Columbus this past season. She hit nearly 40 percent from three-point range. At the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, Toney had racked up numerous awards and accolades. She was named first team all-league in the mid-state league, first team Associated Press for the Central District, All-Ohio AP Division II team special mention, Super 12 team honorable mention, Top-10 district coaches award and the Bexley High School Varsity MVP. It was her third time named the school varsity MVP.

Associate head coach Tony Kemper came to Marshall with Daniel from the University of Central Arkansas, as did former assistant Caronica Randle. Other assistants include Lazar Milinkovic, Stephanie Stoglin-Reed, volunteer assistant Rob Grieve and Director of Basketball Ops Destiny Bramblett.

About Woody Woodrum

Senior Editor and columnist/writer for Herd Insider since 2003, with Kindred Communications on radio for Marshall football/men's basketball pregame and postgame shows since 1996 and with First Sentry Bank Sportsline (Also Scott on Sports, Sideline Sports and Herd Insider Sportsline) since 1997. Married to Liz (12-22-1990) and one son, Tre' (11-7-1997). National Sportswriters & Sportscasters West Virginia Broadcaster of the Year winner for radio, 2000; won W.Va. Broadcasters Best Talk Show in 2013 with co-host Paul Swann and W.Va. Broadcasters Best Play-by-Play in 2015 with Jason Toy (Huntington at South Charleston, state AAA semifinals). Member of (College) Football Writers Association of America, (College) Basketball Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Color commentator for Marshall football (1999-2000), for Marshall basketball (2004-2016) and Marshall baseball (2004-2016). Color for high school football at Spring Valley (1999-2008), Cabell Midland (2009-2012) and Huntington (W.Va.) High School (2013-2016).

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