Tuesday, February 16, 2016

NBLCNET Player Profile: Doug Herring, Jr.

Herring is a point guard for the Saint John Mill Rats (Photo: Rod Stears)

Favorite Hobbies: Music, movies, and Xbox
Favorite Song: "Banned from TV" by Noreaga (last song he plays before leaving the locker room each game)
Favorite Movies: Finding Forrester and Blue Hill Avenue
Favorite Life Moment: Birth of both of his kids
Favorite Nicknames: Fresh, Baby Paul Pierce, and When I Feel Like It
Favorite Sports Team: Duke Blue Devils
Places to Visit: Rome and Paris
Interesting Fact: He has over 500 movies in his collection and a list of 200 more that he wants to get
Career Goals: Would like to go back to school for computers and then own his business

Doug Herring, Jr. was born and brought up in Poughkeepsie, New York. His father had been a former basketball player that had competed professionally in England, and his stepfather was a coach in the community. Doug followed their footsteps and began playing basketball at the age of 6. His stepfather pushed him to become a better player from day one, and Doug would attend his practices and drills with the older kids. Even at fourth grade, Herring played with his older brothers and with grown men at the park. His stepfather was deeply committed to helping him grow as a player, attending all of Doug's home games and even many of his away games. He was there to help his stepson until Herring became his own critic. Doug also played football throughout his childhood, but as a high school sophomore, he narrowed his focus down to hoops, which he found more entertaining. Herring's childhood was highlighted by a lot of moving around. He attended five different elementary schools, three middle schools, and four high schools. From an athlete's standpoint, this made it difficult for him to properly build a resume to attract colleges and made it harder for them to track his progress for recruitment.

However, freshman year at Pinellas Park High School in Largo, Florida was still a learning stage for Herring. Standing just 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m), he was a timid player and angered his coach by choosing to not shooting the ball, even when he had open looks at the basket. It was in sophomore year with Countryside High School in Clearwater, Florida that he added that facet to his game, and after putting in hours of practice to perfect his form and touch, Herring found himself being a far more reliable shooter and, in turn, a better player overall. Unfortunately, because of his moving family, Herring had to give up high school basketball for his junior year, but he returned with Poughkeepsie High School as a senior, where he found his place as a spot-up shooter. But despite his development, he did not receive any scholarships or even offers from colleges.

Herring dribbles the ball in college (Photo: Utica College)

After leaving high school, Herring attended Utica College in Utica, New York, a few hours drive from his hometown. Initially, his family had encouraged him to attend prep school before making the transition to a four-year college, but Doug believed otherwise. He had graduated from high school with a 92 average, and he felt like prep school wasn't worth it. Herring planned to spend just one year at Utica before transferring, but that didn't work out either. Once meeting his girlfriend at the college and a coach with overseas experience, he knew that it was the place to stay. Just as a freshman, Herring led the school to a Sweet 16 run at the NCAA Division III Tournament. While at Utica, head coach Andrew Goodemote transformed Herring from a shooter to a scorer. He drilled aggressiveness into the point guard's brain since freshman year and taught him to create space and attack off pick-and-rolls. Herring also viewed Goodemote as an opportunity to capture a lucrative deal overseas, as the coach had previously played in England. However, the plan was ruined when Goodemote resigned in 2008, shattering his dreams of competing in Europe once leaving school.

By senior year, Herring had already left behind a legacy, ranking second all-time on the school's scoring list, second in field goals, and first in assists. He also received first team all-conference honors for his final three seasons at Utica. But with the departure of Goodemote and coming from a small school, Herring still couldn't find a job overseas. Agents found him too much of a risk to invest their time in, and he did not have any success with combines, either.

Herring (#9) with the semi-pro Kingz of the APBL.

So Herring took an unheard-of route to the professional level. Instead of looking for a team, he created one. With his cousin, Donald, he started up a semi-pro team known as the Hudson Valley Kingz, who would compete in the American Professional Basketball League (APBL). Doug created the team name, inspired by the nickname of his hometown "Power Kingdom" and the fact that they would be the best team in the arena. The two had their uniforms designed and logo created, and after one season, they found a home arena. While Donald was handling the business side of the team, Doug pulled on a Kingz uniform, and instantly, he was back on the court. The transition from college to semi-pro took the point guard by surpris. He found the competition faster and more physical than ever, and he had to face the likes of Doug Wiggins, Hugh "Baby Shaq" Jones, and even former NBA player Smush Parker. Herring was team captain for 3 seasons and quickly developed into an unstoppable force. Following his rookie season, he was named All-Star and constantly appeared on the all-league teams through the following years. He even broke two league records in his final 2013 season with the Kingz, scoring 66 points in one game and recording 20 assists in another.

But by this time, Herring knew that he was ready for the next level. In mid-2013, the point guard participated in a summer league in Hartford, Connecticut. Summer leagues were not unfamiliar for him, as he had previously used them to spread the word of the Hudson Valley Kingz. They also allowed the Herrings to make new contacts to expand their team's name. However, this time Ian McCarthy, general manager of the Saint John Mill Rats of the NBL Canada, was in attendance. McCarthy, impressed with what he saw, invited Herring to training camp with his team and Doug eventually signed his first professional contract with the Mill Rats.

Herring is defended by Adrian Moss in his first NBL Canada season.

Herring easily found his spot in the NBL Canada, undaunted by the league's bigger names. Although initially uncertain of what his role for the Mill Rats would be, he turned out to be a huge asset to his team. In just his fifth game at the pro level, Herring dropped 39 points and 7 assists against the Island Storm and later topped that with 42 points and 9 assists against the Halifax Rainmen. He pulled off a total of five 30-point games and 4 double-doubles, and heading towards the end of the season, he was an All-Star. Once the season came to a close, Herring returned to his home state for a short stint with the Rochester Razorsharks, to help him stay in shape. However, he grew unhappy with its style of play, which was reminiscent of pickup basketball, and did not make a return.

Herring makes an entrance for the Bristol Flyers in England.

That offseason, Herring finally accomplished his goal from college, inking a deal with the Bristol Flyers of the British Basketball League (BBL). At first, he wasn't quite sure what to expect, as it would be the first season in which the Flyers would compete in the United Kingdom's top league. Herring had to adapt to a much slower-paced game, but it was a smooth transition for him, being a point guard. He used the same advice that he had heard from Coach Goodemote and put it into action. Within a week, Herring was posting 20-point performances game after game. He even made the BBL Team of the Week not one, not two, but three times. From a cultural perspective, Herring was lucky to not face any language barriers, and he had no issues adjusting.

Sadly, his season was cut short by a devastating injury. In a mid-November loss to the Cheshire Phoenix, Herring hurt his knee and was taken off the court. Questions were running through his mind as he was taken off the court, but once his MRI was done, he was shocked. He had suffered a meniscal tear. But after doing some research online, he found out that the regular recovery time was about a month, giving him some hope. In spite of that, after he met with his doctor, his worst fears were confirmed. He would be sitting out for the rest of the season. Devastated by the recent turn of events, Herring had his teammate Alif Bland speak to the doctor about the rehab process, which he learned would take four to six months.

Just as devastating was that Herring had been one of the front runners for Most Valuable Player that season, and his name was climbing in the polls. He could have even played in some of the top leagues in Europe if it were not for the one injury. Not only was his resume destroyed, but he doubted that he would ever be the same player again.

Herring drives to the rim in his NBL Canada return.

Yet throughout the process, Herring remained in contact with Mill Rats general manager Ian McCarthy. Last year, he had chosen to play overseas instead of in the NBL Canada to build his resume, but this time he had no other choice. The injury had taken its toll, and he could not get a deal with any team from England for the 2015–16 season. Herring called his teammate Anthony Anderson about returning to Saint John, and with his support, the decision was made. He would be back in New Brunswick, and he would be in pursuit of a championship. Just after one week, Herring was a co-Player of the Week and improvement was written all over the team.

In comparison to his first run in the NBL Canada, he became a far more independent player, not relying on Anderson nearly as much. He felt a surge of confidence in the organization since the first day of training camp, and despite having Anderson and Gabe Freeman—both former MVPs—captain the team, he continues to take a leading role in huddles. Herring hopes that this season will be a road to a brighter future in professional basketball. He aims to make it back to Europe someday, but more importantly, he wants to support his family by doing something that he loves.