INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Devyn Marble has always had a thing for fresh kicks.
“I don’t know why,” Iowa’s 6-foot-6 senior guard said. “I just love shoes.”
As a youngster growing up in Southfield, Mich., Devyn would badger his mom about buying him the newest brand of basketball shoes.
“I told him, ‘Make sure your grades are right, and you can have them,’” recalled his mom, Joi Thrash. “When he was little, he’d even sleep with them in bed. A brand new shoe was like a teddy bear almost.”
It was not a phase, but a lifelong passion. Devyn says he now owns more than 70 pair of shoes. Joi never got tired of buying them, a reward for staying on the straight and narrow.
“I had a high school coach tell me once, ‘You’re not paying for rehab, you’re not paying bail money, there are a lot of things you’re not spending your money on. Are gym shoes really so bad?’ ” Joi recalled. “At that point I was like, ‘Baby, how much were they?’ ”
Shoes also leave footprints. In Devyn Marble’s case, real big footprints.
His father, Roy, is Iowa’s career scoring leader. Becoming a Hawkeye meant expectations other recruits didn’t have to deal with.
“I was concerned,” Joi said. “But I think he had the absolute personality to deal with that kind of pressure. He didn’t really take it on as a challenge. He decided to be himself and knew he could be successful doing just that.”
Devyn will be playing his 135th career game for the Hawkeyes on Thursday, one more than his dad did, when they face Northwestern at 8 p.m. in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Marble brings 1,662 career points into the game and needs 14 more to pass Ronnie Lester and move into Iowa’s top 5.
The freshly minted first-team all-Big Ten selection has stepped out of his father’s shadow with his own personality and his own game.
“I didn’t feel like I had to do the complete opposite of what he did, or anything like that,” Marble said. “I’m a different person.”
Roy did his damage around the basket with his great athleticism and jumping ability. Devyn has done it with a constantly improving jump shot and an ability to get to the hoop off the dribble.
“He’s not a banger,” Roy said. “He had to put the ball on the floor. It worked out great. He had to do it his way.”
Former Iowa player and current assistant coach Kirk Speraw says Devyn has never been affected by his father’s legacy.
“He was going to be Devyn Marble, and play the game the best way he could, and not worry about trying to meet someone’s expectations,” Speraw said.
Finding his path
Devyn was raised by Joi, but remained close to both sides of his family growing up even though his dad was back in Iowa.
“They all took good care of me to make sure I had the things I needed growing up,” Devyn said. “Whether it was a pair of shoes, or help with my homework, or giving me a few dollars here or there.”
A sixth-grade technology teacher, Joi always stressed the importance of education.
“I probably get my work habits, as far as school stuff, from her,” said Devyn, who is on schedule to graduate in May with a major in recreation and sports business. “She’s always been on me about that. She’s made me a responsible person. I’ve stayed out of trouble. I wasn’t a guy growing up who would hang around the wrong people.”
Joi remembers Devyn with a basketball in his hands as young as 2 years old. He played basketball, baseball, soccer and football. By his sophomore year at Lathrup High School, Marble narrowed his focus to basketball.
Always one of the youngest kids in his class — he was just 17 when he arrived on the Iowa campus in June of 2010 — Joi never considered holding her son back a grade.
“I guess when you think about holding kids back, there are two reasons for that,” she said. “One is if they are struggling academically. The second would be if they had a growth spurt and needed some time to get those skills together. And he didn’t have either one of those issues.”
His game evolved, and Division I programs — including home-state Michigan — noticed.
“He was undervalued as a recruit,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “We valued him. However, we took Tim Hardaway Jr., which obviously ended up being a good selection. (Marble) had a young birthday. When he was a senior, he could have been playing in 16-and-under leagues. What you saw was not what you were going to get.”
Then-Iowa coach Todd Lickliter did offer a scholarship, which Devyn accepted. But after Lickliter was fired, new coach Fran McCaffery had to sell him again. Marble looked around — Detroit was appealing. He recommitted to Iowa, then had second thoughts.
“I didn’t get angry at him,” McCaffery said. “I didn’t wonder. Kids are going to waver in those situations. They want to be sure.”
Finally, Devyn told McCaffery he was coming. McCaffery called him daily until Marble arrived on campus “just to re-emphasize all the things we had talked about, and continue the relationship that we would have had if I had started recruiting him 18 months earlier.”
By the seventh game of Marble’s career, McCaffery knew he had a special player. Bryce Cartwright got in foul trouble at Wake Forest. McCaffery moved Marble to the point. He handled it better than his coach expected. That versatility — he’s played three different positions at Iowa — has been the trademark of his game in college.
“I came here, and I trusted coach McCaffery,” Marble said. “He’s been a standup guy to me. I definitely made the right choice.”
Is the NBA next?
Devyn hopes the next chapter of his career is the NBA.
“A lot of people don’t think I’m capable of achieving that goal, so it would mean a lot for me to do it,” he said.
Several NBA scouts and front-office personnel contacted by the Register declined to be quoted, but all predict that Marble will hear his name called in the two-round draft on June 26.
Roy Marble was taken in the first round of the 1989 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks, the 23rd pick overall. He was suspended 24 games into his rookie season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Drunk driving and drug-related offenses are also in his past.
“My dad didn’t make some of the best decisions, you know?” Devyn said. “God also put him here to help me learn right from wrong. He’s helped me be grounded, too. Some of the mistakes he’s made were so I don’t make the same ones.”
Roy doesn’t hide behind his detours in life.
“My kids all know my story,” Roy said. “If the dictionary had a picture of trial and error in it, my face would be there.”
McCaffery said that Marble’s ability to score consistently is a big plus in the eyes of NBA personnel who call and quiz him about his star guard.
“After that, I think they love a number of things about him,” McCaffery said. “No. 1, he can play more than one position. He clearly can play (point guard). You know, when you’re 6-6 and you can play the point, that’s going to be huge. He can guard at one, two, three. That’s big, because they do a lot of switching.
“They are able to ascertain that he’s incredibly cerebral. You know, the playbooks in the NBA are very complex. You have to be able to remember it and know it inside and out. He’s got great feel for how to play the game. He plays with no panic.”
But for now, Marble continues to leave his own legacy in the few games that remain before he closes the book on his college career.
“He’s been a joy to watch over the last four years,” Joi said. “He was a good kid growing up. He continues to be a good kid. I’m very proud of him.”
Marble honor: Marble was chosen to the NABC’s District 7 first team Wednesday and the USBWA all-district VI team Tuesday. Marble became the first Hawkeye since Adam Haluska in 2007 to garner all-district accolades.
He is averaging 17 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game through 31 games.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball