Roy Marble, the only player in Iowa basketball history to score more than 2,000 points, died Friday after a yearlong fight with cancer. He was 48.
Marble was born Dec. 13, 1966 in Flint, Mich. He's best known for his basketball career at Iowa, where he remains the school's all-time scoring leader. Marble scored 2,116 points from 1985 through 1989 and the Hawkeyes competed in the NCAA tournament in all four of his seasons. He was a first-round NBA draft pick of the Atlanta Hawks in 1989 and also played with the Denver Nuggets and other professional clubs until 1995. Marble then settled in Cedar Rapids before relocating to Lansing, Mich., shortly before his death.
Marble is survived by five children: sons Roy “Devyn” Marble, Carlo Royshaud Marble, Merrick Mackdanz-Marble and daughters Roichelle Marble and Royonah Marble.
In summer 2014, Marble was diagnosed with terminal stage four cancer. He said he was “hell bent” to fight the disease as long as he could. He still traveled between Iowa and Michigan and remained in the public eye while attending numerous sporting events and his daughter's graduation from the University of Iowa in May.
“It comes out of nowhere,” said Marble last fall after his cancer diagnosis. “There's not words for it. You're immediately afraid. You start to think about all the things that you took for granted that you wanted to do. That hits me every day and that's why my kids are so important to me now.
“Basically, I'm in a race to make sure I do all I can to make sure they're in place to be great humans and a participant in society in a positive way.”
As a sophomore and a junior, Marble led the Hawkeyes to the Sweet Sixteen. In 1987, Marble's Hawkeyes were ranked No. 1 nationally for multiple weeks and advanced to the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight, where they lost to UNLV by three points. Iowa was 6-4 in NCAA tournament games with Marble, who averaged 17.7 points and scored more than 20 points four times.
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Along with career points, Marble holds school records for field goals (787) and field-goal attempts (1,459) and ranks second in free throws and points in a season. He led Iowa in scoring in three of his four seasons.
“Roy was physically gifted but the thing that got Roy over the top was he was a competitor to the highest degree,” said former Illinois player Stephen Bardo, now a BTN analyst. “He'd go for a loose ball, he'd go for a rebound like his life depended on it. He played every play like that. He was very difficult to defend. I was one of the better defenders in the league and I couldn't do anything with him at times because once he got going, he was so physical so athletic and so competitive. That's the thing where I don't know if he got enough credit for how competitive he was. That's what I'll remember Roy about the most.”
Marble's basketball legacy also extends beyond himself. Devyn Marble plays professional basketball for the NBA's Orlando Magic, and Roichelle attends Wisconsin on a basketball scholarship. Merrick previously played junior-college basketball, while Carlo is enrolled at Lansing Sexton (Mich.) High School and plays football and basketball. Royonah recently graduated with a degree from the University of Iowa,
Roy and Devyn became the first father-son tandem in Big Ten history to each register at least 1,000 points. Devyn ranks fifth in Iowa scoring with 1,694 points. Combined the Marbles scored 3,810 points for the Hawkeyes.
When Devyn approached the 1,000-point barrier, Marble was choked up talking about the accomplishment.
“For me, I'm the proudest dad in the world. No getting around that,” Roy Marble said in 2013. “I'm forced to try to look like I'm the coolest cucumber like back in the 80s, although it's not the 80s. It's not the 80s, and I'm not cool at all. I'm nervous with every shot he takes.
“I just feel blessed as a father to have the opportunity to have a son who's playing right now at the high level at the same university. I'm happy for the University of Iowa.”
Hlas: Farewell, Roy Marble
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Marble did face many legal problems over the years, but he remained a beloved figure around the Iowa athletics program. In March, Iowa recognized Marble one last time at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a place where he had become a regular watching his son in recent years. At halftime of the regular-season finale, a much thinner Marble received a standing ovation during a two-minute ceremony at midcourt. He was handed a framed jersey by athletics director Gary Barta. As a testament to his standing with the program, many fans, former players and current players lashed out at Iowa for not retiring Marble's jersey. Publicly, Marble took in the moment in stride.
“It was just an elating feeling,” Marble told The Gazette that day. “I was comfortable. It was packed at the hotel this morning, and I tried to sneak down and get a cup of coffee. And that didn't work, from my pajamas to the coffee to the upstairs for a walk for a second, (fans said) that was why they were in town. It just set my morning.”
Iowa forward Aaron White, who became the school's second-leading scorer that day, embraced Marble after the game.
“He's arguably the best player to ever play here,” White said after the game. “Whatever he says, I always take it with great knowledge and try to learn from him. I really wish they would have retired his jersey. To be honest I was a little disappointed that they didn't. But I'm not the one making decisions. The fact that they acknowledged him was good. He's a great guy.”
Marble collaborated with Brian D. Meeks on a book called, “Two Decades and Counting: The Streak, The Wins, The Hawkeyes, Thru the Eyes of Roy Marble.” about his life experiences. The book was released in 2012 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Iowa's 1987 squad. Marble documented his journey as a high school basketball legend at Flint Beecher High School to Iowa City. In particular he said the tough love he received from University of Iowa rhetoric professor Louise Kelly helped him get through college and earn a degree.
“I went to practice but I stopped to see (Iowa athletics administrator) Fred Mims and said, 'This lady isn't going to work out. Transfer me to another class,'” Marble told The Gazette in 2012. “(Mims) 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.'”
With his successes and mistakes, Marble set an example for his children.
“My dad didn't always make some of the best decisions,” said his son, Roy Devyn Marble, in a 2014 interview. “God put him here and also helped me know right from wrong also. He's helped me be grounded, too. The mistakes he's made were made so I don't make the same mistakes. I know people probably don't look at it like that, but that's the reality of life. There's going to be mistakes that my children won't make. That's just how it works.”
Marble stayed true to the University of Iowa and touted his relationships with coaches George Raveling — who recruited him to Iowa — and Tom Davis, who coached him for three seasons. Marble also stood behind current Coach Fran McCaffery, both publicly and privately, from the day McCaffery took over at Iowa.
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“I was proud to be in the black and gold,” Marble said in 2015. “I feel privy at this point and totally grateful because I not only played ball here, but I raised a family, the whole nine yards.”
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