Court Marshall: Rookie Finding His Way

Kendall Marshall #12 of the Phoenix Suns drives the ball against the Houston Rockets on March 13, 2013 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
(Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
Posted: March 20, 2013

This time last year Kendall Marshall was learning what it was like to be a spectator as he had to sit on the sidelines rooting for his North Carolina teammates in the NCAA tournament while nursing a fractured wrist. A year later he’s learning what it’s like to stop rooting for his new teammates from the bench and help them on the court.

Although a lottery pick in the 2012 draft, Marshall found it tough to crack the Suns rotation at point guard due to the fact that seasoned veterans Goran Dragic and Sebastian Telfair were ahead of him. After seeing spot duty in only a handful of games in the first month as a professional, the UNC guard would only find his way off the bench in six games from the end of November to the beginning of February.

The unexpected sabbatical didn’t hinder Marshall’s desire to grow as a player. On many nights while the lights on the main court were down and the 18,422 seats were empty you could find him at US Airways Center working with then Director of Player Development Lindsey Hunter. The two would spend time working on the young guards game, in particular, his shooting.

The effort paid off. When changes, in the form of coaching changes, occurred in late January, his mentor, Hunter, found his way to the head job and Marshall found his way back into the rotation.

Marshall’s minutes tripled in the month of February and his improved play left the team confident enough to make a deadline deal involving Telfair. Like most rookies, his play has ebbed and flowed as his minutes have increased, but the fans and coaches alike have seen flashes of brilliance from him.

While his court vision and ability to pass have never been in question, possibly the most impressive part of Marshall’s second half of his rookie campaign has been his ability to shoot the ball. Coach Hunter attributes it to his hard work in practice and on his own.

“I know from being in the gym as the player development guy, how many long sessions of shooting this kid has been going through,” Hunter said. “You would think he was John Paxson the way he was shooting the three-ball tonight. So that’s great to see. And I know had he not spent the time and the effort and the hours in the gym shooting, he would have never had the confidence to even look at the rim.”

His most impressive shooting display came on Monday in a 99-76 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Marshall had 11 points thanks in part to hitting 3-of-4 shots he attempted from beyond the arc.

It wasn’t all his own doing though. The young gun, like most good rookies, knows that he always has to give his coaches and teammates credit for their support.

“The coaches and my teammates encourage me to shoot it,” Marshall said with a smile. “It doesn’t hurt that the work I put in gives me that kind of confidence. At this point in the season they tell me ‘what do I have to lose’ by taking that shot and it’s only going to make me better. It makes it a lot easier to take those shots when you’re getting encouragement from coaches and teammates.”

That encouragement, advice and extra time in the gym has helped Marshall’s game grow in two very important ways in his first season.

“Mentally and confidence level [is where I’ve matured most],” Marshall said. “Those two things can go a long way in this league. It can make or break a player. If I can continue to make those strides it will help me with my skill level on the court.”

As legendary coach John Wooden once said, “The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching.” Marshall’s time in the gym alone working on his shot proves that he has come quite a long way from being that 20-year-old kid watching his teammates compete in the tournament.