Getting Up With UNC’s Next Star Point Guard
Words. Jason Jordan
Kendall Marshall doesn’t care where he’s ranked; he’s focused on the bigger picture.
By the time Kendall Marshall was nine years old he could whip a behind-the-back pass through the arms of a lurking defender as easy as he could drain an NBA 3-pointer.
By the time he was 10, the 5-2, 95-lb. fifth grader was anointed the nation’s top fifth grader by HoopScoop, and by 11 he was featured on the front page of the Washington Post.
But by the time you read this article, none of that will matter.
Yes, Marshall, now a 6-3 rising senior point guard, is already committed to North Carolina, but that’s where the guarantees end. Once a consensus top-10 recruit, Marshall has seen his ranking steadily slide over the past few months. Most rankings, which factor in class, don’t have Marshall in the top 25. He checks in at No. 34 in the HighSchoolHoop top 50, which disregards class.
A victim of overexposure? Perhaps.
“I mean you can say that I’ve been overexposed,” says Marshall, who hails from Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Va. “When you’re known and people have seen you forever, they’re gonna look for, and find deficiencies. You can say that I didn’t live up to the hype, but I think that I’ve handled it just fine. After a while people want you to be the next LeBron and there aren’t a lot of those out there. I just think people don’t appreciate what I do as much anymore.”
Or maybe people are starting to wise up. This past weekend, Marshall led his squad to the NBA Top 100 Camp title, claiming MVP honors in the process. But will it be enough to get Marshall back on top? We asked the man himself…
HighSchoolHoop: So how did your high school team end up this year?
Kendall Marshall: We were 22-11 overall. We started off the year really strong at 11-0. We beat Kinston. We beat Gonzaga High School. After the Christmas break we struggled and had another rough patch at the end of the year. Overall, I think it was a good year, but I wish we could’ve finished stronger.
HSH: What did you average?
KM: I had 16 (points), eight (assists) and eight (rebounds).
HSH: You’ve played with Boo Williams Summer League for the past few years, how’s the team looking this year?
KM: We’re pretty good. We’ve got a lot of scorers, and we’ve reached the Final Four of every tournament. We’ve got Travis McKie, James McAdoo, Andre Dawkins… We’ve got a pretty good core, we’ve just got to fill it out.
HSH: Is the ultimate goal to win AAU Nationals?
KM: Well, Mr. Boo Williams always says that his goals are to win Peach Jam and to win Nationals. He feels like if you can win those two, then it’s been a successful year.
HSH: We’ve just released our rankings and you made our cut, but I’ve noticed in the other rankings you’ve dropped significantly. Why is that?
KM: First of all, it’s someone’s opinion and I respect that, and I respect their views. I think what I do isn’t thought of as highly as what another player may do. Which is fine – I think what I do is more appreciated at the college level, and that’s what I’m looking forward to. But I just want to keep getting better and keep do what I’m doing. If people appreciate it, that’s great. If not, I’ve just got the keep my eyes on the prize.
HSH: You said what you do isn’t as thought of as highly as what other players do. From your perspective, how is your game different?
KM: The strength of my game is the intangibles. I run the team and I’m a leader out on the floor first. Sometimes that’s not as visible to some people.
HSH: Does it bother you that your attention seems to be fading?
KM: Not at all. I respect what they say, but my goal is to get ready for the next level. It is nice to be ranked high, but if that doesn’t happen you’ve just got to keep pushing forward to the bigger goal at hand.
HSH: What was it like to be ranked the No. 1 fifth grader in the country?
KM: It was crazy! It’s definitely not something that you see everyday. I mean it was nice at the time and I appreciated it, but at the end of the day you have to realize that it’s someone’s opinion and that’s where it stops.
HSH: What are you looking to improve on this summer?
KM: My defense and rebounding. I think as a big guard that’s a way that I can really help my team. Also, my pull-up jump shot. I should be able to shoot over smaller guards better. I think that will definitely help me at the next level.
HSH: You chose North Carolina really early in the recruiting process. Why?
KM: Yeah I always loved Carolina and I always wanted to be a Tar Heel. If you want to be the best you have to compete with the best, and they’ve always had an elite program. To take my game to the next level, I know it will help me to compete against the best on a regular basis.
HSH: Obviously, UNC just had a great run and Tywon Lawson was a major reason why. Do you feel any pressure going into that position because it isn’t crazy to say that in 2010 you could have the ball in your hands from day one.
KM: That’s been brought up to me once or twice. Coach (Roy) Williams told me that when I come in I’m gonna have to compete for everything that I get. So yes there’s pressure, but I believe that diamonds are made from pressure. If I want to succeed then I have to cherish the pressure and strive through it.
HSH: Typically when you commit to an upper echelon program like UNC it comes with a target. Have guys on the circuit tried to come at you harder since you committed?
KM: Definitely. But like you said I had all that attention early so I’ve been experiencing that for at least five years. You kind of grow accustomed to it and you know to bring you’re a game every night. When you don’t play your best or you have an off-night you hear about it. So it really just motivates you to play hard every game. It really just helps you in that regard.
HSH: Who are you looking forward to facing on the circuit this summer?
KM: The best. I don’t have one guy that I want to play against. I just want to play the best and get better. That’s all.