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|Devyn Marble has a famous last name at Iowa. He's not intimidated by it.|
It started in high school, not just the comparisons but the attitude.
Roy Devyn Marble couldn't do much about the first. The comparisons were inevitable for a Michigan kid named Marble, especially once he put a basketball in his hand. But the latter -- the attitude -- that Devyn Marble, as he prefers to be called, could control.
And so rather than run from the people who put his game alongside his dad's all the time, Devyn decided to embrace them. If people asked how Devyn would match the accomplishments of Roy Marble Sr., a one-time first-round draft pick and the all-time leading scorer at Iowa, he said he would top them; if they wondered why he chose to walk in his pop's collegiate footsteps rather than forge his own path, Devyn shrugged and said "Why not?"
"To be honest, it never bothered me,'' Devyn Marble said. "My mom was worried about it for me, but I wasn't. My dad was a great player and I'm happy for him, but I always knew I'd be able to pave my own way.''
Devyn's way, ironically enough, might end up looking eerily like his father's. Roy Marble, Sr. scored 2,116 points in his Hawkeye career. While Devyn won't score more, he already has put his name in Iowa's record books. He entered the season already above the 1,000-point plateau and, in his junior year, he became the first player to collect more than 1,100 points, 350 rebounds and 275 assists.
Moreover, if the early predictions prove correct, Devyn might help the Hawkeyes, dormant and NCAA tournament bid-less since 2006, to return to his dad's glory days.
Back when Roy Marble Sr. played, Dr. Tom Davis patrolled the sidelines and NCAA tournament berths were a given.
Roy's sophomore season, in fact, remains the program's most recent highwater mark. In 1986-87, the Hawkeyes won 30 games and rolled to the Elite Eight, setting an impossible bar that Davis never quite realized again. Though Iowa continues to hear its name called regularly on Selection Sunday, the university decided in 1999 not to renew Davis' contract, bringing in Steve Alford.
Alford stayed eight seasons before bolting for New Mexico, leaving three NCAA tournament berths, but just one win, in his wake.
|Devyn Marble went through a rough shooting stretch toward the end of last season. He's looking to put that behind him.|
That beget what can be best described as the Todd Lickliter debacle, an awful marriage between school and coach that ended following three losing seasons, several player exoduses and the disenchantment of a fan base.
Months after Fran McCaffery was hired amid all that turmoil, the former Siena coach relayed a phone call he'd received from a friend not long after he took the job.
"He just screamed, 'Are you crazy?''' McCaffery told ESPN.com with a laugh back in 2010.
Not an uncommon reaction, considering that McCaffery had established himself at Siena and had a good, easy thing going. But McCaffery isn't about easy. He's a Philadelphia native , a typical Philly blue-collar toiler who likes to roll up his sleeves. Iowa would be just the latest in a string of rebuilding jobs for the coach.
He immediately made quick and easy changes, tossing Lickliter's more plodding style for an uptempo game that suited fans who longed for the Davis heyday.
But that was the end of easy. Resuscitating a program is exhaustive anywhere. In the Big Ten, it requires a tethered oxygen tank. Four league wins in the first year to eight in the second was a huge jump; it still just meant the Hawkeyes were 8-10 and in seventh place.
"This is hard,'' McCaffery said at the conference media day in Chicago. "You go from trying to put the pieces in place to be competitive, to a program that has some significant wins. But then there's a time when we couldn't put our defense together. Then it was the offense. It's a lot of work, but you have to build a program, not a team. You can't go for a quick fix. It takes time. And you need the right guys.''
Devyn Marble was one of them -- even if he wasn't McCaffery's recruit.
Marble signed with Iowa before his senior season of high school, before Lickliter was fired. He knew plenty about the school thanks to his dad's career -- Devyn was raised by his mother, Joi Thrash, but his father was always in his life -- but the challenge of leaving his own mark appealed to his competitive spirit.
"Part of why I came here, I knew I could play right away,'' he said. "But re-establishing a program is so much more rewarding. Instead of walking into something already done, you can say you really accomplished something.''
He was right about the first part. Devyn played in all 31 games his freshman season.
"We weren't very good,'' McCaffery said. "I only had a few guys I could win with. He was one of them.''
But like Iowa's climb, Marble's wasn't easy. McCaffery mixes tough love with pats on the back. Marble has had his fill of both.
"Losing is not an option, even when we were losing a lot. You could never accept it,'' Marble said of his coach.
Still his numbers continued to improve -- from 5.7 points to 11.5 to 15 -- until they fell off the Earth last season.
Starting with a 1-for-14 night against Indiana on New Year's Eve, Marble turned colder than an Iowa farm in mid-February, a nine-game streak in which he shot a woeful 21-of-83.
It didn't help that the Hawkeyes went 2-8 (Marble missed a January game against Michigan State game with an ankle sprain) to open the Big Ten season.
Instead of stewing, Marble got to shooting. He went to the gym early and stayed late, studied game film and studied his own form.
In the Hawkeyes' final 15 games, he shot 86-of-195 and not by coincidence, Iowa rolled to the NIT title game, following Marble's lead.
"Everything is a process,'' he said. "You know, not everybody comes out of high school and dominates. The world doesn't work that way, at least it never did for me. You have to learn things on your own. You have to work for it and earn it and then you get the reward.''
Now perhaps the reward is finally within reach.
And for that, there would be no comparison.