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Roy Marble book chronicles his track from Flint to Iowa basketball superstar

His book is released Saturday to coincide with the celebration of Iowa's 1986-87 men's basketball team

Iowa's Roy Marble (23) gives Yugoslavian National team member Predrag Danilovic a good look at his tongue during first half action of this exhibition basketball game, Thursday evening. Iowa licked visiting Yugoslavia, 114-77. Nov. 17, 1988. (The Gazette)
Iowa's Roy Marble (23) gives Yugoslavian National team member Predrag Danilovic a good look at his tongue during first half action of this exhibition basketball game, Thursday evening. Iowa licked visiting Yugoslavia, 114-77. Nov. 17, 1988. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Roy Marble joined the Iowa men’s basketball program in 1985 and became the school’s all-time leading scorer when he left four years later.

But to Marble, his basketball accolades on the court were just a small part of his life story. Marble, 45, arrived in Iowa City from Flint, Mich., as a superstar athlete but quickly was knocked down to size by University of Iowa rhetoric professor Louise Kelly. Marble said his encounter with Kelly changed his life, and it’s one of several stories in his new book, “Two Decades and Counting: The Streak, The Wins, the Hawkeyes, Thru the Eyes of Roy Marble.”

The book, which is written by Brian D. Meeks, was not a project Marble initially embraced. Marble’s son, Roy Devyn Marble, was set to join the Iowa basketball program in the summer of 2010 when Meeks sought Marble about the book. Marble said he didn’t want to get in the way or overshadow his son’s college career.

“I’ve had a few bumps in the road and I was like, ‘Who wants to hear from me?’” Marble said. “Now I have a son playing and a daughter that’s been offered by Iowa. It’s like, you should just sit your ass down. It’s an uncomfortable situation.”

Meeks was persistent, and Marble’s family encouraged him to tell his story. Even Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery got behind the project. So Marble decided to tell his story.

Marble, who now lives in Cedar Rapids, is quick to praise former Iowa athletics director Bump Elliott and women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer as well as current trainer John Streif and associate athletics director Fred Mims. But Marble said Kelly was the person who gave him the confidence to share his story and become a complete person, rather than just an athlete.

“I don’t know anybody who had the accolades I had coming in here in the history of Iowa basketball,” Marble said. “I really bumped heads with this lady (Kelly), and she got on my nerves. I thought I could say, ‘Well screw this, and I’m going on my way to practice.’

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“I went to practice but I stopped to see Fred Mims and said, ‘This lady isn’t going to work out. Transfer me to another class.’ He told me, ‘I don’t think you understand. If you don’t do what she says, then you’re not going to practice. You’re not going to be in this school. So take your ass back over there and get your assignment completed.”

Marble initially pouted but returned to Kelly’s class. Kelly then told him to write about his childhood and journey from Flint to Iowa City.

“Everything just exploded from there,” Marble said. “She turned out to be my friend, the best lady. I wouldn’t even have confidence to try this if she hadn’t told me, ‘You’ll be a complete player, you’ll start to understand what it means to evaluate, to write and expand your knowledge on paper rather than with your physical presence and with your mouth.’

“She broke me on that and from that moment on, I was a Hawkeye.”

The book is released Saturday to coincide with the celebration of Iowa’s 1986-87 men’s basketball team, which finished 30-5. Marble was a sophomore that year, the only Iowa squad ever ranked No. 1, and averaged 14.9 points a game. He was a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Hawks in 1989 but played only one season. He later re-emerged with the Denver Nuggets for five games and played professionally in other leagues in parts of seven years.

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