After taking over from former coach Cody Leonard, for whom he was an assistant for three years, Varner took the Owls to two team camps: at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau on June 15-16 and at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg last week.
Nine of the 11 underclassmen who played for Marshall's varsity team last year participated in both events: seniors-to-be Jake Dillon, D'Onte Henderson, Alex Maupin, Evan Summers and Ben Valencia; junior Zach Glassmaker; and sophomores Conner Cooley, Logan Harris and Lance Thomas.
The Owls posted a 5-1 record at the Redhawks' camp, then won seven of 10 games at the Mules' camp -- with the junior varsity going 3-7.
"They played hard," Varner remarked. "That was the main focus: playing together and getting used to some new things we're putting together."
Marshall is coming off a 9-18 campaign which saw it win two tournament titles -- at Stover and Wellington-Napoleon -- and reach the semifinal round of the Class 4, District 8 Tournament at Mexico. The only senior on last year's squad was forward Collin Porter, while Maupin -- a 6-foot guard -- was the team's only all-NCMC selection.