Let me take you back a few years to the 2010-11 season, when the North Carolina fan base was asking that head coach Roy Williams let go of his starting point guard Larry Drew II and let the McDonald’s All-American freshman get the nod. That freshman was Kendall Marshall, and that team, for the next year and a half was the high octane car he was the driver of.
Game after game the freshman made passes that we fell in love with, and when a year later he was the floor general on a team that featured Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller and Dexter Strickland, the thoughts of a third national championships popped into the minds of many Carolina fans.
But the hardware was not meant to be, as injury beat up on that Heels squad more than most opponents did. John Henson was down a few games here and there, including a stretch in March Madness, Strickland went down halfway through the season, and was done for the campaign. And as the team made its run into the postseason, Marshall literally fell, as he was pushed/shoved/hit by a Creighton defender, to a broken wrist. Later it was reported that another break had occurred due to that incident.
As UNC lost to Kansas the end came for both a title run and the watch in Chapel Hill of four players headed to the NBA. Tyler Zeller was a senior, and his time was done with the team no matter what. John Henson, a junior who a lot thought would be a one and done coming into Carolina, also was on his way to the pros. As for Harrison Barnes, I have always believed that his play would benefit him more at the next level, and last season’s play in the playoffs proved me right. But for Marshall, hurt and all, the motivation to go was… maybe due to the time being right and maybe a bit selfish?
Let’s remember the night of the NBA Draft, when there were pictures of coach Williams with the four hats of the teams where his players landed. How we all thought that this was a great moment for both the program and the four former Heels. No one could imagine that this would be the last time that Marshall would be a happy person in the NBA.
When we talk about the year and a half that Marshall held the floor general spot at UNC we think of what? Assists! And you have to believe that with the team losing pieces like the above mentioned ones, and maybe even James McAdoo, where it was not sure if he would be back after his freshman year, Marshall had to have thought that his assists per game as well as his stock might not improve, but might drop, if he stayed around another season.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20, because the reality might just be that had Marshall stayed he would not have been a lottery pick, going 13th to the Phoenix Suns, but he might have ended up with a team that he could take his time in developing, and most of all would have had another college year to improve his shooting, which is one of the major set backs he has had at the next level. How things went the following season at UNC, had Marshall stayed, he could have been the center piece of the squad, and maybe could have had his stock rise.
While we will never know this, but had Henson and Barnes stayed to try another run at it, what would have been the probabilities that so would have Kendall Marshall? I would say that if the duo had stayed, so would have the point guard. Had just Barnes stayed and it was sure that McAdoo would be back, could the point guard had thought about coming back? Again, I would say the 6’4″/195 lbs floor general would have returned to Chapel Hill.
From what I know of how things work, when players at North Carolina are thinking of making the jump to the NBA head coach Roy Williams puts his feelers out and finds out what his sources believe will be the player’s best move. If the results came back that most believed the young man was going to be a lottery pick, or close to it, I am sure that the man at the helm of the program was in favor, for Kendall’s sake, of the sophomore going.
The fact that Marshall had broken his wrist had to be an issue on going to the NBA as well, since another injury like that might make teams steer clear of the point guard altogether.
So, in the end, the move to go to the National Basketball Association, whether or not selfish, was probably one that coach Williams agreed with and in the end made sense for all. And if not for the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers wanted Steve Nash, Marshall being drafted by Phoenix was a great fit for both franchise and player.
Two or three seasons behind a player like Nash, who loves to make great passes and can always find the team mate, would have benefited Kendall Marshall. He could have learned from a future Hall of Famer that plays much like him and would not have had the pressure that was put on him when Nash departed for Tinsel Town. Once the franchise cleaned out in the front office and with the coaching staff for Marshall it was all but over.
Would an extra year have helped out Marshall? Sure, but on the other hand if things had gone the way they should have this post would not be written, as we would be watching the point guard play limited minutes as he learns from a veteran guard and works his way into the rotation, knowing that in the future he could become the one leading the team.
In the end, as the old saying goes, it is what it is, and right now, for the former North Carolina point guard what it is is not good, and he needs a break in order to find a way to stay in the NBA this coming season.