Cota 'proud' to have Marshall break mark

Catching Up With: Ed Cota

Former North Carolina point guard Ed Cota said he’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Wednesday night’s Maryland-UNC game. And if sophomore ballhandler Kendall Marshall dishes out the four assists needed to break Cota’s single-season record?

“I’ll be proud of the guy,’’ Cota said in a phone interview. “He’s a great kid. And it couldn’t happen to a better person.”

Marshall grew up watching Cota play for the Tar Heels, and has called the playmaker -- who holds three of the top five season assist marks in UNC history, including the best at 284 in 1999-2000 –one of his favorite players.

So maybe it’s not surprising that Cota sees a bit of himself in Marshall, who has dished out 281 assists this season and is averaging 9.69 per outing.

“As far as having control of the game, we are similar,’’ said Cota. “If I go off of vision, we have similar vision. But I think he’s more textbook than I am.

“…But we are a rare breed, the way we look to pass first. A lot of stuff came naturally to me, but I was always I student of the game. I always wanted to make other people look good on the basketball court, better than myself. And I think [Marshall] is the same way.”

After amassing a school record 1,030 assists in his career (another school record) and helping the Tar Heels to three Final Fours from 1996-2000, the 6-foot Cota went on to play in Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Israel and Spain. After a knee injury four years ago, he settled in Charlotte, N.C., where he now enjoys spending time with his two children.

He hasn’t retired quite yet – and may play again, he said, if the right opportunity comes along. But he’d also like to coach in the future.

As for Marshall, who he met last season, Cota said he’s happy he made an impression on another Tar Heels point guard.

“I’m proud of him, and I’m glad I set the bar for somebody to be able to achieve what I’ve achieved -- and more,’’ he said. “Hopefully he’ll be able to break the all-time record – but he’s got a long way to go.”

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.