Marble learned from backup-point-guard role


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Roy Devyn Marble didn't know what he was getting himself into.

An early injury to Cully Payne last season left Bryce Cartwright as the only true point guard available for the Iowa men's basketball team. But as Cartwright's playing time started piling up — he started every game in Big Ten play and racked up more than 33 minutes a contest — coach Fran McCaffery needed someone to spell him.

That someone was Marble.

When McCaffery approached Marble about the new, unexpected role — Marble had been playing shooting guard and small forward — he didn't blink.

"I was like OK, that's fine, more playing time — until I got there," said Marble, now a sophomore. "It was more challenging than I thought it would be."

Sure, Marble averaged four assists a game in his junior and senior years for Lathrup High in Southfield, Mich. But his game was much more point-maker than playmaker. Scouting reports on ESPN.com lauded Marble with categorizations like a "very athletic slasher" and "capable … of spectacular, highlight-reel plays," not necessarily "great passer" or "floor general."

As Cartwright put it, Marble "was pretty much a 2 [shooting guard] his whole life."

"[In high school] I was always looking to score," Marble said.

He said he was happy that McCaffery entrusted him with the responsibility of helping run the offense, but that responsibility brought unfamiliar obstacles with it.

Yes, he had taken the ball up the court at times in high school, but that was nothing compared to what he saw in the Big Ten. Adjusting to the pace of the college game is already difficult enough for a true freshman. Throw in learning a new position, too, and Marble said that difficulty was magnified.

"To actually have to control the team and make sure everybody's in the right place, calling out plays, doing all that, was just different," Marble said. "It was a little bit of a challenge."

His statistics reflected the toughness of his transition. He compiled a 1.08 assist-to-turnover ratio in 18 Big Ten games. His shooting average inconference games dipped 3 percentage points from nonconference games.

McCaffery said Marble's backup role stunted his development as a player.

"I think last year, perhaps playing the backup point, was prohibiting his ability to become the best wing player he can be," McCaffery said.

But as Marble said, "I approach every challenge the same way. I want to be challenged."

His embrace of the challenge eventually resulted in higher-quality play toward the end of the season, earning him starts — although not at the point — in each of Iowa's final six games. He shared Iowa's Most Improved Player honors with Andrew Brommer.

Those strides continued into the summer, where Marble was as good as any other player in the Prime Time League. Despite being drafted 10th, behind seven Iowa teammates, Marble averaged 27 points per game on 54 percent field-goal shooting.

He credited his experience as a point guard for making him a better basketball player.

"It helped with my basketball IQ a lot," Marble said. "It helped me learn the plays even faster, because I had to know everybody's positioning at all times."

This season, McCaffery said Marble is competing with junior Eric May for the team's starting small forward spot. Still, "We don't have a ton of depth" at point guard, McCaffery said, so the second-year coach will likely need to call on Marble again at some point.

He'll be ready for the job this time around.

"I'm a lot more comfortable now that I'm in my second year. A lot more confident in what I'm doing," Marble said. "Things are coming a lot easier to me."

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