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IOWA CITY — The final take-away of Devyn Marble’s college experience coincided with his first — and the most important — lesson of his professional life.
The former Iowa basketball star made 15 NBA visits this spring, zigzagging the continent from Utah to Charlotte and Toronto to San Antonio. He worked out for hundreds of executives in unfamiliar gyms against draft prospects just like himself. But through the early flights and sometimes sleepless nights, the 21-year-old shooting guard acquired a depth that few experience in a lifetime.
“I just learned how much I love playing basketball,” Marble said. “Looking at a lot of things we’ve had to do, if you don’t love basketball, you wouldn’t make it through the month of June. Financially you can really take care of your family, but you really learn what basketball means to you.”
On Thursday night, Marble likely will become Iowa’s first NBA pick since Adam Haluska in 2007. It’s the completion of a college arc that opened with a skinny athlete developing into one of the Big Ten’s best basketball players.
Marble began his Iowa career as a legacy. His father, Roy Marble, is the school’s all-time scoring leader. He arrived on campus as a 17-year-old and spent most of his first year as a contributor off the bench. He showed flashes of potential as a sophomore, especially in a 31-point effort at Oregon in an NIT second-round game. He developed into a skilled and oftentimes dominant player in the latter part of his junior season. As a senior, he became Iowa’s first all-Big Ten men’s player in seven years and averaged 18.3 points a game in league play.
Marble was the Big Ten’s only player since 1986 to end his career with more than 1,650 points, 375 assists, 450 rebounds and 175 steals. He finished his Iowa career ranked fifth in scoring with 1,694 points. He was 11 points shy of tying point guard B.J. Armstrong, who now serves as Marble’s agent.
Through the visits, Marble said most of the feedback has been positive. His versatility has become an asset, along with his 6-foot-6 frame. A few places have piqued his interest, although anything is possible come Thursday night.
“Some places are more appealing than others,” he said. “You look at roster makeup, who have they have coming in, who they have leaving, free agency, cap room, stuff like that. When you look at all that stuff, the best thing for me is to be with the right fit and the right system, where I could really find my niche and really mesh with that team.”
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery will join Marble at his mother’s home in Detroit on Thursday. McCaffery has traveled from the NBA Scouting Combine in Chicago to Marble’s pro day in Los Angeles to tout Marble’s skills and answer questions about his protege. McCaffery said Marble can fit with just about any team because of his skill set and versatility.
“I look at it this way: he’d be a great fit for any team because of his versatility, his unselfishness, his incredible basketball IQ, his incredible ability to score the ball,” McCaffery said. “He’s going to be coming off the bench, which is the likelihood in his first year. He can come in off the bench and impact the game immediately. They’re going to want that. He’s not a mistake guy. They don’t pay mistake makers. He’s an underrate defender.”
Outside observers and NBA scouts also like Marble. Milwaukee Bucks scouting director Billy McKinney said he was impressed with Marble’s character and his offensive game, but added Marble needs to become a more consistent outside shooter. ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas said Marble has NBA ability.
“He’s a skilled player,” Bilas said. “I saw a lot of him last year. I don’t think he’s a great shooter, but he can make shots and I think because of his size and his skill level, I think he can certainly play and play well in the NBA. He’s got to find the right situation. Then he’s got to become a better and more focused defender. But he’s certainly got the ability level to play in the NBA, no question.”
So a lifetime of work culminates into one night for Marble. Once his name is called, his dreams become reality. But that’s only the first step. The most important step comes next — making an NBA team.
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