In his day, Danny D’Antoni was a darned good point guard.
Besides scoring 1,109 points in three seasons, D’Antoni averaged a team-leading 17.5 points for Marshall University during his senior year in 1968-69.
That’s pretty strong.
Which simply makes D’Antoni’s comments about Jarrod West even stronger.
“Jarrod is Jarrod,” said Marshall’s veteran head coach, referring to the Herd’s star junior point guard. “I’m glad I retired before he could play defense on me.”
That is the ultimate compliment.
“Jarrod is just a real tough character — especially on the defensive side,” said D’Antoni. “I am glad I retired before he had to guard me. He would have picked me up full-court and I would have had to face him every dribble, every pass, every move.”
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound West is bigger physically than D’Antoni, who played at about 155 pounds. But even West’s size is deceptive.
“He’s bigger than he looks,” said D’Antoni. “He’s only 5-10, but his reach is 6-2, 6-3. So, he’s long. In fact, he’s the longest guy for his height on our team.
“He doesn’t look it and you don’t see it. But you certainly would feel it. He’s very deceptive. You’ll feel it when he’s guarding you. I’m just fortunate that he chose Marshall and he certainly is the front of our defense.”
That’s what Rice will discover when Marshall hosts the Owls in the Herd’s Conference USA opener at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Cam Henderson Center.
Besides averaging a team-high 14.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists, West is ranked No. 11 in the nation in steals with 2.69 per game (35 overall).
West reminds D’Antoni of one of his former teammates.
“Bob Redd was like that,” he said. “He inspired me. He was a great defender, always hustling and his arms flailing. When you’re around people like that, it pulls the best out of you, too.”
That conjured up memories of the defensive strategy once used against D’Antoni.
“We played St. Peter’s two years in a row,” he recalled. “One year in the NIT and the next year here at home. They ran a defender, picked me up full-court and every five minutes put in a new one. They had four of them. Every five minutes, the next one was in. That five minutes was up, next one was in.
“I didn’t have a real good offensive game in the NIT. But when we came here (Veterans Memorial Field House) and they did the same thing, I had 33 points against them. So, I don’t know how much if affected me.
“But they were doing what Jarrod does by himself. It took four of them, but Jarrod can do it by himself.”
That’s very compelling.
It’s also a great compliment.
“I really appreciate that, honestly,” said West. “That just shows how much confidence he has in me, especially on the defensive end, to just come out here and compete.
“I really have that will to win, make it hard for opposing teams’ guards or their best player — whoever it is I’m matched up with. I just try to do my best to make it hard for them. Not allow them to get anything easy.
“I’m glad Coach appreciates that and has the confidence in me to match me up with really anybody.”
That’s because D’Antoni knows what a good point guard looks like.
He was one.