IOWA CITY, Ia. — Devyn Marble, signed, sealed and delivered, started to waver.
“What kid wouldn’t?” Marble asked.
A high school senior from Southfield, Mich., Marble signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Iowa in November of 2009. But the following spring the coach who recruited him, Todd Lickliter, was fired after the Hawkeyes had limped through a third straight losing season for the first time since 1932.
In came Fran McCaffery, a coach Marble knew nothing about. That was about to change, thanks to college basketball’s version of speed dating. McCaffery flew to Southfield to introduce himself.
“I thought everything was settled,” McCaffery said at Iowa’s annual media day Wednesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Then he started wavering again. And we had to go back (to Southfield). At that point, we kept our foot on the gas.”
McCaffery, who had already seen inherited recruits Cody Larson and Ben Brust jump ship for other programs, started calling Marble daily.
“It got to the point where I was no longer selling the program,” McCaffery said. “We were just getting to know each other. I needed to respect the fact that part of his trepidation was, “Yeah, he liked me, but he had only known me for a short period of time. Every conversation increased his comfort level.”
Marble was giving Detroit, a lot closer to home, a good, hard look. But he was also listening to McCaffery’s words.
“I remember those conversations vividly,” Marble said. “He told me how much he wanted me and needed me. I’m just happy I stuck with what I signed my letter of intent to do.”
Marble enters his senior season as a 1,000-point scorer and the face of a resurgent Iowa basketball program.
“I give our three seniors (Marble, Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe) a tremendous amount of credit,” McCaffery said. “I respect what they’ve been through, and I think they’ve enjoyed the ride. But I think in Marble’s case, he has his hands on the ball more often. He’s a bright young man, a leader, and he has in many ways become the face of the program because of what he’s accomplished, how he’s expressed himself and the fact that he has tremendous character.”
It was back in his freshman season when Marble won over his coach for good. Iowa was playing at Wake Forest, and starting point guard Bryce Cartwright got two quick fouls. McCaffery, who never envisioned Marble as a point guard, moved him there out of necessity.
“That’s when I knew we could play him at the one (point), the two (off-guard) or the three (small forward),” McCaffery said. “Because he was fearless. I think that’s probably his greatest gift. He’s not afraid.”
A legacy – Marble’s father, Roy, is Iowa’s career scoring leader with 2,116 points – Devyn has cut his own cloth by listening to McCaffery and working to get better. It’s been a marriage made in hoops heaven, cross words and all.
“You can rip him and he’ll come right back and deliver for you,” McCaffery said. “You ask about a guy having character? Well, that’s what character is. He believes in himself. And he knows we love him.”
Marble, now entrenched as the Hawkeyes’ starting point guard, has increased his scoring average each season. Iowa’s victory total has also jumped, from 11 to 18 to 25, with Marble wearing jersey No. 4. And the same program that was buried nationally when Marble and McCaffery arrived is ranked in the Top 25 of several preseason publications.
This is Marble’s team, a statement he won’t argue. And he wants to sign off on his legacy with the school’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2006.
“That would be the ultimate,” McCaffery said.
Devyn Marble’s rising stat lines
Freshman: 5.7 points, 19.1 minutes, six starts, 66 free-throw attempts, .530 free-throw percentage
Sophomore: 11.5 points, 29.5 minutes, 27 starts, 141 free-throw attempts, .723 free-throw percentage
Junior: 15.0 points, 30.5 minutes, 37 starts, 189 free-throw attempts, .810 free-throw percentage
BREAKING DOWN THE HAWKEYES
Coach: Fran McCaffery, 305-227 overall, 54-50 at Iowa.
Last season: 25-13, lost in finals of NIT Championship.
Key departures: Eric May (5.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg).
Key newcomers: Jarrod Uthoff, Soph., Cedar Rapids (transfer from Wisconsin); Peter Jok, Fr., West Des Moines Valley; Kyle Meyer, Fr., Alpharetta, Ga. (redshirted last season).
November — 3: Augustana, Ill. (exhib.), 3:30 p.m.; 8: N. Carolina-Wilmington, 8:30 p.m.; 10: Nebraska-Omaha, 3:30 p.m.; 14: Maryland-Eastern Shore, 6 p.m.; 17: Abilene Christian, 3:30 p.m.; 22: Penn, 6 p.m.; 28: Xavier, 6 p.m. (Battle for Atlantis, Bahamas); 29: Tennessee or Texas-El Paso, TBD (Battle for Atlantis); 30: TBD (Battle for Atlantis).
December — 3: Notre Dame (ACC/Big Ten Challenge), 8:15 p.m.; 7: Drake (Big Four Classic, Wells Fargo Arena, D.M.), 7:30; 9: Fairleigh Dickinson, 6 p.m.; 13: at Iowa State, 8:30 p.m.; 22: Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 1 p.m.; 31: Nebraska, 6 p.m.
January — 5: at Wisconsin, 6:30 p.m.; 9: Northwestern, 8 p.m.; 12: at Ohio State, TBA; 19: Minnesota, 12 p.m.; 22: at Michigan, 6 p.m.; 25: at Northwestern, 11 a.m.; 28: Michigan State, 6 p.m.
February — 1: at Illinois, 6:30 p.m.; 4: Ohio State, 6 p.m.; 8: Michigan, 1 p.m.; 15: at Penn State, 12 p.m.; 18: at Indiana, 8 p.m.; 22: Wisconsin, 11 a.m.; 25: at Minnesota, 6 p.m.
March — 1 or 2: Purdue, TBD; 6: at Michigan State, 8 p.m.; 8 or 9: Illinois, TBD; 13-16: Big Ten Tournament, Indianapolis, Ind.
RICK BROWN’S TAKE
Iowa is poised to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006, with all but Eric May back and newcomers Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok in the 11-man rotation.
Versatility, depth and experience will be trademarks: Six players have at least 30 career starts, and five have played at least 1,255 minutes. Seniors Devyn Marble, Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe all have played more than 100 career games. Seven players have started at least 13 games in their careers. Returnees on scholarship have played 645 combined games, with 319 starts and 12,746 minutes of action.
Defense improved greatly a year ago — from 72.5 points allowed per game to 62.8 — and that trend should continue. But it will take improved perimeter shooting for this team to take the next step. Iowa lost seven Big Ten games by four points or less or in overtime, and shot a league-worst 28.4 percent from 3-point range.
IOWA MEN’S ROSTER
(0) Gabe Olaseni — 6-10, 225, Jr, Led team with 36 blocks last year
(1) Melsahn Basabe — 6-7, 220, Sr, Has logged 2,163 career minutes
(2) Josh Oglesby — 6-5, 208, Jr, Shot just 26.9% from 3-point range
(3) Peter Jok — 6-6, 200, Fr, Shooting is a strength
(4) Devyn Marble — 6-6, 200, Sr, Has 1,134 career points
(5) Anthony Clemmons — 6-1, 190, So, Team’s top defender
(10) Mike Gesell — 6-1, 190, So, Rock solid at both ends
(13) Kyle Denning — 6-1, 160, Jr, Walk-on with 16 career games
(15) Zach McCabe — 6-7, 235, Sr, Played in 104 career games
(20) Jarrod Uthoff — 6-9, 208, So, Makes college debut, 2 years later
(23) Okey Ukah — 6-6, 210, Jr, Walk-on from Iowa City West
(30) Aaron White — 6-9, 220, Jr, Career: 12.0 ppg, 5.93 rpg
(34) Adam Woodbury — 7-1, 245, So, Ambidextrous threat in post
(35) Darius Stokes — 6-7, 203, Jr, Put on scholarship for 2013-14
(42) Kyle Meyer — 6-10, 225, Fr, Redshirted last season
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball