Devyn Marble’s basketball metamorphosis came under the watchful eye of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. It’s a relationship that started with indecision and blossomed with trust over four years.
“He didn’t know me when I got this job,” McCaffery said. “Over the last four years I have really appreciated Devyn in this program, and we’ve been together since Day 1, he and I. It was his team the last two years. I trusted him, he trusted me. And I have a very special bond with him.”
Today, Marble looks nothing like the gangly freshman who averaged 5.7 points, and everything like the first-team all-Big Ten guard who averaged 17 points as a senior. After working out for 15 different NBA teams over the past month, Marble is poised to take the next step in his basketball career.
He’ll watch Thursday’s televised NBA Draft from a restaurant near his home in suburban Detroit. McCaffery and his entire Iowa coaching staff will be there with him.
“It makes me feel great, having their love and support,” Marble said. “These are guys I’ve spent four years with. We’ve built a strong, positive relationship.”
When McCaffery was hired to replace Todd Lickliter in the spring of 2010, Marble wavered on his decision to attend Iowa not once but twice. That is where this player-coach relationship, a blind date of sorts, took roots.
Iowa’s 2013-14 season ended with a loss to Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament. When time expired in overtime, Marble became a former Hawkeye player. But McCaffery has remained by his side. He attended the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago May 15-16 and answered questions about Marble. McCaffery’s 55th birthday was May 23. He spent it in Los Angeles, attending Marble’s pro day and answering more questions.
“I have a responsibility to do that, because he did everything that I could ever possibly want him to do here,” McCaffery said. “And I wanted to be out there and make a statement that I’m here, because I believe in this kid. And I believe he’s going to be in the league for a long time.”
In both Chicago and Los Angeles, the line of questioning was the same.
“They had a lot of specific questions with regard to character, his work ethic, his basketball intellect, his versatility, all the things I talk regularly about,” McCaffery said. “And when it’s all said and done, he’s an easy sell.”
Former Iowa guard B.J. Armstrong, who is Marble’s agent, asked McCaffery to call the general manager of every team Devyn worked out for as a follow-up.
“I told B.J., ‘I’ll do anything possible to help him,’” McCaffery said. “It’s just being thorough and making sure people know and understand how I feel about him. Because if there were issues in regard to anything with his approach or the kind of person he was, a head coach wouldn’t work that hard to help him.”
Marble, who ended up fifth on Iowa’s career scoring list with 1,694 points, opened some eyes in Chicago when he said he considered himself the best guard in the Big Ten, even though he’s projected to be a second-round pick. Meanwhile, Michigan’s Nik Stauskas and Michigan State’s Gary Harris are penciled in as lottery picks.
“I’m just making a comment based on how I feel,” Marble said. “I have a right to my own opinion. I have the right to say that I feel like I performed better than some of the guys that they say may be better than me throughout the season.”
Marble has always been confident in his own abilities during his four seasons at Iowa.
“But there’s a difference between being confident and making statements just to make them,” Marble said. “I think I have a valid reason for my statement.”
Marble’s first workout was at Atlanta on May 27. The last one was Monday at Oklahoma City.
“I think they liked the fact that I could do so many things,” Marble said. “I showed my versataility. Shooting, passing, scoring, whatever it may be. Depending on the situation, and what role they need me to fill, I’ll be able to concentrate on those one or two things, excel and become pretty good at them.”
Sure, Marble will tell you, being a first-round pick would be nice, because it’s guaranteed money. But first round, second round or free agent, the bottom line is landing in the right spot.
“I love this kid, and I’m just pulling for his name to be called as early as possible,” McCaffery said. “And regardless of where it’s called, he’s going to be in the league a long time. There’s no question in my mind.”