Posted On: 11/28/18 8:00 PM

The Marshall Tigers head into the season a top-10 team in Class AAA, returning six key pieces from their rotation a year ago. The most important returner is all-conference forward Matt Onken.

Onken, a 6-foot-7 senior big man, averaged nearly 14 points and eight rebounds, helping lead the Tigers to a 23-win season. He’s back and with Trey Lance gone to the college football ranks, he’ll take on the de facto go-to guy role for a team with high expectations.

“We have a lot coming back,” said Onken. “We have six rotation guys and two that were on the bubble where they’d play depending on the game. We expect to go back to state. Last year we weren’t satisfied with losing in the semifinals. We want to get back to the section finals and hopefully get to state.”

Onken is a force inside and few teams in the Big South or Section 2AAA have the athletes capable of contending with him. He’s big and strong but also has the athleticism and explosiveness to present mismatches on the court. He’s very good in the low and mid post areas and defends at an extremely high level.

“I think defense is my strength,” said Onken. “I’m big enough to guard people inside but also fast enough and athletic enough to guard guys at the 3-point line. My ball handling and shooting are there but it’s just about being more confident and doing it more.”

Onken said he’ll handle the ball more this year and venture outside the paint more than he did as a junior. He’s got good touch and if he can add a 3-point shot to his repertoire, he’ll be an even bigger handful for the opposition.

Onken’s got all the physical tools to be a good college player. Throw in his budding skillset and you get a guy who could be a difference-maker early and often at the next level. He’s garnering quite a bit of interest.

“Basketball is my main sport and I’m hoping to play college ball,” said Onken. “Northwestern in Orange City, Jamestown and SMSU are the main ones. I visited Concordia, St. Johns and a couple other DIII and NAIA schools. I liked the visits. A lot of nice campuses and nice coaches. Just trying to figure out which one is best for me.”