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Scott Howard-Cooper

North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall will probably be a lottery pick on June 28.
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UNC point guard Marshall out to prove he can shoot straight

Posted Jun 12 2012 10:10AM

In a Draft with few point guards of any type projected to go in the first round, Kendall Marshall is the prototype distributor with court vision and the exacting instincts to deliver the ball at the right place at the right time. His North Carolina teammates were able to score, hiding what may be Marshall's biggest deficiency.

But in the NCAA Tournament, the throwback playmaker that can't shoot had a run that showed maybe he can after all, making Marshall the prospect who arguably boosted his Draft stock in the college postseason more than any likely first-rounder. Marshall tore through six games that meant everything to Carolina. They were six games that may end up meaning more to him when selections are made June 28.

The six-game grouping is a small sample size set against the 30 that came before in 2011-12 and an entire freshman season before that. But sometimes it is more than enough. NBA teams don't always need to see a guy do everything at age 20. They mostly want to know that he can do it.

Now they know.

"His shooting has gotten to the point where you're not going to be running plays to get him jump shots, but he's become enough of a shooter," one general manager said. "He's not a great athlete where teams are going to be fearing him going by them. He needs a ball screen. If he was a knock-down shooter, he could be a lottery pick because he's a pure point guard."

Marshall likely goes in the lottery on June 28 anyway, despite the remaining concerns about a lack of athleticism that raises concerns about his chance to be a decent defender. The lack of star quality at point guard is a factor -- Marshall and Weber State's Damian Lillard could be the only points drafted in the first round. But so is the fact that Marshall is such a skilled distributor with experience at a major program.

The resume' building on the so-called area of weakness began in the final game of the regular season, though it was hardly a regular-season game. Carolina at Duke never is. With more intensity ricocheting around Cameron Indoor Stadium than a lot of teams would see in a single-elimination postseason contest, Marshall made seven of 15 shots and scored 20 points.

In the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, he went five of nine, including three of four behind the arc, against Maryland. Then, five of eight against North Carolina State, followed by six of 13 against Florida State.

The NCAA tournament began with connecting on five of seven shots against Vermont and seven of eight against Creighton in the round of 32, before breaking his right (non-shooting) wrist with 10:56 remaining in Greensboro, N.C. Marshall underwent surgery the next day, with a screw inserted into a bone, and hoped to play again. North Carolina lost two games later, though, before he could return. It wasn't until late May that a fractured elbow from the same impact was also discovered.

In the first 30 games of the season, Marshall averaged just 5.5 attempts and 6.8 points while shooting 42.4 percent overall and 31.1 on threes.

In his final six: 10 shots and 14.8 points, 58.3 percent overall and 50 percent from 3-point range.

"You put scorers around him and people that are going to move without the ball, he's going to deliver it to guys and get you some easy buckets," a GM said. "Finding pure point guards anymore seems to be a challenge. Most years you're getting guys that are combo guards. ... They kind of played some one, played some two in college, and now they're trying to convert to a straight one. Here's a kid who is a straight one who you are not going to have to convert. He already thinks like a point, plays like a point, passes like a point. There's less of a transition period for a guy like that."

Marshall joked that he simply plays better away from Chapel Hill. The actual explanation was, strangely, that he started making shots once he stopped worrying about making shots.

"I got to the point," he said, "where I was like, 'They're expecting me to miss anyway, so just go out there and shoot it.' "

Defenses were expecting him to miss anyway. So what the heck. Fire away.

"Exactly," Marshall said. "I feel like when I took that mindset and really started to be more aggressive in looking for my own offense to help free my teammates up that shots started falling and it made us a much better team."

Now he thinks he can be that guy on a consistent basis, good enough to keep opponents honest on the perimeter. Proving that during workouts in the final weeks before the Draft -- proving that the guy who can't shoot maybe really can -- will be the best way that Marhall can boost his stock on June 28.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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