Thursday, December 15, 2005

Wayne Marshall's Return to the Court... Take It Slow


Before I saw him, I heard about him. “Prep to pro”, “One and done.” Confidence was high on North Broad Street.

Those comments were referring to Temple’s new man in the middle, Wayne Marshall. A product of Martin Luther King high school in Philadelphia Wayne had created quite a buzz for himself amongst the student body at TU. No small task in North Philadelphia where hate is much easier spawned then praise.

Wayne came into Temple as a proposition 48 athlete. This means he had a fair share of trouble qualifying for college and would need to sit out his freshman season to get his grades right. That season he was out of shape and looked rusty with the ball in his hand but still guided his intramural team to a league championship in a fairly competitive recreation league at Temple University.

I watched him play a number of games that season for his team known as, “Wayne and Company” and he appeared uninterested and for the most part, far from dominant.
Not being of the hating nature myself I wanted to buy into the hype. Surely from the wreckage of the Philadelphia public league that is normally barren of big men Coach Chaney had pulled a diamond from the rough. I imagined the possibilities. A big men with good size who demanded a double team drawing in defenders, he was able to look over their outstretched arms and find a swingman spotting up on the arc. No more dribbling the clock down to nothing and hoisting a forced shot, no more undersized centers, and a return to glory for the Owls.

When I first saw Wayne daunting the cherry and white he looked in shape and appeared to have nice range and soft touch. I was impressed. He had a decent knack for the ball and seemed to get up and down the floor efficiently. His go to move was the up and under, time and again he would use it keeping the defender off balance with a series of head fakes.

I think the up and under is one of the most effective moves in basketball. With that said if it’s your only move the scouting report is going to reflect this and it’s going to become harder to execute. This was the case with Wayne in his first season with the Owls. Once the opposing coaches got a read on what he liked to do they were able to shut him down with ease because he wasn’t adjusting to the new looks they gave him.

But, fear not I thought to myself for he is young and with his mouth sucking from Chaney’s bosom he will return a new man with new moves. The one and done talk didn’t come from his mouth, he was simple a victim of the rare North Philadelphia hype machine.

Then I hear news that Wayne is suffering from dizzy spells that are commonly caused by heart problems. Immediately I think of Hank Gathers, Reggie Lewis, Eddy Curry and Jason Collier. Of course with news like that you have concerns for the player’s long-term health but as an Owl’s fan I also have a concern for the middle of the paint.

But now it appears that Wayne is once again practicing at full speed with the team. Now I am not saying this as anything other then pure speculation but isn’t it a bit of a coincidence that a player with a long history of academic trouble is all of the sudden poised to make a comeback after the new grades are in for the fall semester and eligibility is renewed? If Wayne had himself a bad summer session and failed a few classes perhaps that was enough to keep his heart beat a bit of balance… and perhaps not.

Truthfully it doesn’t matter, not to me at least. I believe being good at basketball is just like being good at math or English it’s just a less accepted form of intelligence… However, it warrants mentioning.

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