Written by Justin Prince.
Saturday night’s Marshall men’s basketball game with rival Western Kentucky was already a big game.
But, Friday afternoon the battle between the Conference USA leading Thundering Herd and Hilltoppers got even bigger.
That’s because Western Kentucky’s 4-star freshman recruit, Josh Anderson, was finally cleared by the NCAA following a dispute about the guard’s grades in high school. The ruling means that Anderson is immediately eligible and will make his collegiate debut against the Herd.
“We are just glad for Josh,” Western Kentucky head coach Rick Stansbury told reporters before boarding the team bus to Huntington, West Virginia. “During the whole process he’s worked hard and competed in practice knowing he couldn’t play. It obviously helps us to have him and we’re excited for him to get a chance to finally get out there.”
At 6-6 Anderson provides the Hilltoppers with a long athletic guard who was one of the most sought after players in the 2017 recruiting class. After leading his Baton Rouge high school team to three straight Louisiana state titles Anderson was ranked as a top 60 player nationally by every major recruiting outlet. According to the Bowling Green Daily News, no player has ever been more highly rated WKU’s history.
Anderson’s eligibility not only gives WKU a boost in size and athleticism at the guard position, but it also gives the Hilltoppers a little more depth.
“We’ve been playing with seven or eight guys,” Stansbury said in the team’s weekly press conference prior to Anderson’s clearance. “That’s all of our scholarship players. We’ve got a couple others waiting on NCAA rulings but right now we’re thin.”
It’s unclear how much Anderson will play in his first action of the season, but his presence means that coach Dan D’Antoni’s team will have to try and contend with a talented player they haven’t seen on film.
“We’ll let the flow of the game dictate all of that,” Stansbury said. “But, he’s been practicing with us since the beginning of the year. He’s ready to play and he definitely gives us a new dimension we haven’t quite had up until now. So, we’ll just see how things play out.
Marshall (11-4) and Western Kentucky (10-5) are both 2-0 and tied atop the league with preseason favorites Middle Tennessee and Old Dominion.
For Marshall, the game provides the Herd an opportunity to start league play off 3-0 before heading on its first C-USA road trip of the season next week, while the game gives WKU a chance to start off 3-0 in conference action for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.
Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m. from the Cam Henderson Center and streamed live via Stadium College Sports.