You might not remember Milton Doyle. He had an outstanding sophomore season at Marshall but suffered a broken hand and was forced to sit out his junior year. So he fell off everybody's radar screen. Well, everybody's except Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, who recruited him.
Doyle, a 6-foot-4 senior, is committed to Florida International in Miami. It is the site of Thomas' latest coaching venture and the former St. Joseph, Indiana and Detroit Pistons star is eager to turn the program into a national power. Doyle is anxious to be part of it.
"An assistant coach from Florida International came to Marshall in September. I was surprised. He told me that the head coach was Isiah Thomas. I knew who he was. I had seen highlights of him. I knew he was a legend in basketball," Doyle said.
He talked to some other schools, including Loyola, Chicago State, Western Illinois and Eastern Illinois, but he committed to Thomas in November. How could he resist playing for one of the best players ever to play the game?
"When I went for a visit, I liked the school and the team -- and I liked their offense," Doyle said. "I felt I fit in good with the program and I liked the coach. I was impressed with how much he knows about basketball and how far his career has taken him. I'm looking forward to playing for him."
Doyle averaged 22 points per game as a sophomore. "It was a breakout year for me. I was really looking forward to my junior year," he said. Then he broke his hand during a summer softball game while diving into second basket trying to stretch a single into a double. Scratch the basketball season.
"It was very disappointing to sit out the basketball season," he said. "I went to all the games and sat and watched. It was very frustrating. It was hard to watch my teammates go through the playoffs and not be able to help them."
Last summer, he played for coach Chris Head's AAU team, the Illinois Hawks. He participated in a Reebok tryout in Chicago and was so impressive that he was invited to Reebok's national camp in Philadelphia. That's when Florida International discovered him.
"I wanted to turn heads and show off my skills and show off my game," Doyle said. "I wanted to show that I can play with the best players in the country. I felt I was doing it all. I had to get used to playing with people I hadn't played with and adjusting my game to them. I was determined to play as hard as I could and make up for last year.
"After it was over, I was proud of myself. But I felt I could be even better. What I want people to know is I can play every position and guard every position. And I have scoring ability from any angle and anywhere on the floor."
Marshall coach Henry Cotton's phone started ringing off the hook. "People ask: 'Why didn't you tell us about him?' A lot of people still don't know about him. But there isn't anything he can't do on the floor. At first, I thought he'd wait until after the season to make a commitment. But...how can you turn down someone like Isiah Thomas?" Cotton said.
If Doyle is a surprise this season, so is Marshall. Only one starter returned from last year's 18-11 finisher. But the Commandoes are 9-1 going into Tuesday's game against Gateway in the opening round of the Normandy Holiday Tournament in Saint Louis.
Last week, Marshall swept Red-West rivals Raby 83-61 on Wednesday and North Lawndale 71-60 on Thursday. Doyle had 22 points and 13 rebounds against Raby and 23 points and 10 rebounds against North Lawndale.
Cotton, 44, a 1985 graduate of Austin, is in his fourth year as head coach at Marshall. He was an assistant when Courtney Hargrays guided the Commandoes to a state championship in 2008. Previously, he was an assistant under Roy Condotti, Frank Griseto and Chris Head at Westinghouse.
"Doyle is our best player. When things get tight, he can play point guard," Cotton said. "But we have several unknown kids who can play well. You can't key on one kid. We don't have a lot of size. We compensate with speed and man-to-man pressure defense."
Doyle is surrounded by 6-1 senior Korbin McClain (14 ppg), the lone returning starter; 6-foot junior Derrick Miles (11 ppg); 6-1 sophomore Citron Miller (9 ppg); and 6-foot-1 junior Chris Crieg (10 ppg). Tony Lewis, a 6-foot-3 junior, is the sixth man.
"They have shown me commitment," Cotton said. "They work hard every day. They go through a wall for me. They show up and accomplish something every day. They improve game by game. We need to get stronger on rebounding and be more consistent on defense. We need to pressure the ball for 32 minutes instead of 27 or 28. We can't take a break on defense."
Doyle is glad to be part of Marshall's tradition. He saw Darius Smith and the 2008 state championship team. He is aware of the 1958 and 1960 state champions and all of the other trophy winners. And he knows who George Wilson was. He hopes future players will remember who Milton Doyle was.
"I like everything about this team," Doyle said. "We fight hard. We have all the tools to beat anyone we face. We have speed and chemistry and
defense. Everybody goes hard. Nobody gives up."