A rehabbing Kendall Marshall is ready to bring his unique game to the League.
by Ed Isaacson / @nbadraftblog
No matter the sport, draft debates about who is the ‘best’ at a particular position rage on. Experts and fans love the debate, and the NBA Draft is no exception.
Yet, of almost any sport, basketball is the least conducive to being able to say, ‘Player X’ is the best (name any position here). With only five traditional positions in basketball, each position has different styles and different areas where a player can excel. You may be able to say that a player is better at a particular skill or two over another player, but rarely can you say a player is the best at his position overall.
Yet, it doesn’t stop people from doing it—whether it’s a top-five list or simply a definitive statement—someone always feels the need to make the argument. The point guard position is one that people love to debate, and SLAMonline had the chance to talk one of the players mentioned often, Kendall Marshall, as he prepares for the next step in his basketball career.
Marshall’s sophomore season at North Carolina certainly didn’t end the way he would have hoped. A broken right wrist, and as we later learned, a fractured elbow, suffered in the NCAA Tournament’s Third Round against Creighton sidelined him for the Tar Heel’s final two games of the season, including a regional final loss to eventual runner-up Kansas.
After the season’s end, Marshall decided to join three other Tar Heel teammates in pitting his skills against the best players in the world. It’s Marshall’s skill set that makes him unique, especially among point guards, in the 2012 Draft.
“The plays I make are usually, to me, the most obvious play,” Marshall explained. “In my opinion, all I am doing is making the right play.”
What Marshall saw on the court last season was a lot different than that of almost any other college point guard. Whether pushing the ball in transition, or running a half-court offense, Marshall seems to see options in places that don’t appear to be options. If you are going to play with him, you better be ready any time and anywhere on the court, because he will find you.
“I have always played this way,” Marshall explained. “I would much rather have 1 assist than 2 points.”
It was that mentality that changed the course of North Carolina’s season during Marshall’s freshman year. Coming off a dreadful January loss to Georgia Tech, Marshall—who had been splitting time with Larry Drew II—became the starter, and the team started to produce more.
In his fifth college start, Marshall recorded 16 assists. The Tar Heels would go 17-3 the rest of the season, losing in the NCAA regional final to Kentucky. A lot of pressure for a freshman point guard? Yes, but Marshall was ready.
“I thought I was ready at the beginning of the year, but Coach [Roy] Williams had his own view,” Marshall remembered. “He made the right decision though, and when I did take over, I was really ready.”
Marshall’s court vision and passing are top-rate, but what else makes Kendall the player he is?
“It’s the things that don’t show up in the stat sheet,” Marshall explains. “Being a leader, and being a winner. It doesn’t matter if I have 5 points, or 15 assists, as long as we win.”
Marshall also credits Williams for his influence on his game. “He had a great hand in my development,” Marshall said. “He challenged me and put me in tough situations, but the trust and the amount of responsibility he gave made me a much better player.”
All of this is not to say that Marshall’s game is exactly where it should be, and Marshall himself knows there are things he needs to work on.
“I am working on improving my body, being more explosive, my lateral quickness and becoming more of a threat offensively,” Marshall listed.
These weaknesses also have some people questioning Marshall’s value in the NBA, but it doesn’t worry him. “At the end of the day, I will be drafted for the player that I am,” Marshall said. “In college, I was blessed to have multiple scoring options around me on the court. But when I was called upon late in the season to score more, I did it. I was able to pick and choose spots where I could look to score.”
We are now less than a month away from the NBA Draft, and Marshall is still going through the rehab process. “The plan is to be ready to go at the Combine, but right now I am more concerned about getting my rehabbing done,” Marshall said.
Either way, Marshall will be a first-round round pick, and will be the first or second point guard taken. Marshall knows what he can bring to any team that drafts him: “I think of myself as a great teammate, and will do whatever I can to bring out the best in my teammates,” Marshall explained. “It starts with just getting them the ball. If they know they are going to get the ball, they will run harder, make plays on defense, and so on.”
Marshall knows what he is up against in the NBA, watching a lot of the elite point guards in the League closely. When asked if there was any one player he patterned himself after, Marshall said, “No,” but watching the players does help him a lot.
“I think my game is very unique, but I will look to some of the great point guards for little things they do that I can add to my game,” Marshall explained. “[Rajon] Rondo and his ball fakes, Steve Nash with the bounce pass and scoop shots. These are the type of things I want to include in my game, so I work on adding to them to what I already have.”
So, the next time you are debating who may be the best point guard, or passer, or any other list you want to make, Kendall is just going to keep on doing what he does. He makes the team better.
Ed Isaacson is the owner/writer of NBA Draft Blog. Check out the site for the latest in player scouting reports and more.