NORTH LIBERTY — Wake-up calls come much earlier for Devyn Marble than they do for most college students this summer.
Marble, an Iowa junior, rolls out of bed at 6 a.m. on weekdays and lifts weights 30 minutes later. He finishes that session, then takes four hours of classwork. Then it’s on-court drills, pick-up games or individual workouts.
“It’s a grind every day,” Marble admits. “My days are long.”
But it’s a sacrifice the 6-foot-6 guard is willing to make. Marble is motivated almost to obsession to improve his game. Last year he focused on becoming stronger with the ball. This year’s weight program is designed to strengthen his legs so he can improve defensively.
He’s also working on ball handling and coming off screens. Then there’s shooting. It’s always about shooting for Marble.
Marble, a Detroit native, sinks 500 shots a day. The perimeter is where he strives for consistency so he’s using the Prime Time League to hone those skills. During his team’s second PTL game, Marble scored 34 points, but the final tally mattered little. It was about the shot selection. He made 8-of-11 two-point shots and 4-of-7 3-point attempts. He rarely drove on his opponent until late in the game and instead focused on jumpers. Some of his shots were head-scratching, but they all served a purpose.
“I’ve been shooting the ball a lot more than I’ve been driving it,” he said. “That way when the defense is focused on stopping me, I can pull up and shoot with somebody’s hand in my face. I’ve been taking those kinds of shots because those are the kinds of shots I’m going to take in the season. I know I can drive every time when somebody’s checking me one-on-one, so that’s not really getting me better.
“I know I wasn’t taking the greatest of shots (that day), but that was just something I needed to work on.”
Based on his final performance last season, Marble might face more contested perimeter shots than he thinks. In an NIT second-round game at Oregon, Marble drilled his first seven 3-point attempts in a 31-point barrage. Before that game, Marble knocked down only 15 3-pointers in Iowa’s previous 34 games last year.
“I knew I could shoot like that,” Marble said. “I’m pretty sure a lot of people didn’t. At the same time they’re not with you in the gym shooting, either. A lot of people don’t know what you can do until you display it.”
Iowa sophomore guard Josh Oglesby touted Marble’s dedication in workouts. He said in practice he’s seen Marble regularly hit shots like he did against Oregon.
“He can score at will,” Oglesby said. “If he wants to score, he can.
“When he’s on, he’s on. I think you’ll see a lot more of that this season.”
Marble has played multiple positions in his Iowa career, starting six games as a freshman at the wing/small forward role. Marble subbed for an injured Bryce Cartwright last year and started 13 games at point guard and moved off the point for 13 more starts. He was productive as a distributor, ranking fifth in the Big Ten with a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Marble now will play only off-guard. He’s not running the point in workouts or in the PTL.
“I think I’m one of the more versatile guards in the Big Ten,” Marble said. “I can’t think of too many guards in the Big Ten that have played as many positions as I have and had as much success as I have at each position. As of now I’m just focused in playing off the ball at the two and the three.”
Marble’s scoring average more than doubled from 5.7 points as a freshman to 11.5 a game last year. If Devyn Marble can make similar strides as he did a year ago, the NBA remains a possibility after his junior year. That will be a cumulative decision between himself, and his family, including his father, Roy Marble, Iowa’s all-time leading scorer and a former NBA first-round draft pick himself in 1989.
“We’ve been talking about it for a while now,” Roy Marble said. “We’re just making sure he keeps his eyes straight ahead and stays focused and worries about Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, and we agreed to that,” Roy Marble said.
“There’s no question the phone will probably ring, and I know so many people in the business that that’s the general consensus (a good year means he’ll declare for the NBA draft). I’m not saying he’s gonna go but it’s just, why run away from it? It’s going to stick there. If you continue to play the way you are, the NBA’s not going to wait on you. They’re going to call.”
Devyn Marble watched several competitors — both in college and as a youth — enter the NBA as draft picks last week, which provided him with extra motivation.
“Some of those guys I just grew up with playing AAU, and their life’s changing within a year or two,” Marble said. “So for me to see them, it shows me it is possible. It really does motivate you to keep working. Since the draft, it has been a little fire in my soul, to keep pushing myself and help the team get better.
In the NBA they don’t want people losing; they want winners.”
But there’s plenty of work for Devyn Marble before he enters the NBA conversation. The first task is to improve defensively. He said he relaxed a bit on defense last year as he took on a larger scoring role. His coaches have teased him about his defense in the past, but the extra work this summer has earned praise, too.
With improved defense and a consistent perimeter game, Marble will become a lethal, multi-dimensional threat, his father said.
“He has a mid-range game that’s by far pretty much one of the best in the country,” Roy Marble said. “He’s created an arsenal of ... you don’t know what he’s going to do, not to mention his ability to get steals and create offense all by himself because of his defense.
“I’m really happy with his progress because now it’s going to take about 20 minutes of that hour of shootaround and if you’re spending 20 minutes on just one guy, that’s mission accomplished. I think the Big Ten’s going to have to do that this year.”