The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
A talent for teaching
UConn great Marshall still having an impact on the game as an assistant coach in the NBA’s G League
In January of 2006, Donyell Marshall led LeBron James, his young teammate and a burgeoning international basketball icon, down the steps of the lower bowl of the Bradley Center in downtown Milwaukee and toward a pair of seats behind the UConn bench.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were in town to play the Bucks the following night. Jim Calhoun and the UConn men's basketball team were playing their Big East opener against Marquette, and it was not going well. James, probably, was never happier to have gone straight from high school to the NBA.
“That was the game when [Steve] Novak had 41, and we were turning the ball over,” Marshall said this week. “Calhoun called a timeout and, who was the point guard? Marcus Williams. He turned the ball over and Calhoun called a timeout and Marcus had the ball and Calhoun's like, ‘Give me the ball! Give me the ball! You don't want it! You don't want the ball! Give me the ball!' So he took the ball and rolled it to the ref and LeBron turned to me and just goes, ‘You played for that crazy [bleep]?' I was like, ‘Yup.'”
Marshall was 32 at the time. Now he's 49, turning 50 in May, a father of six and about to become a grandfather.
James, who averaged a career-high 31.4 points in 200506, his third year in the NBA, was 21. Now he's 38 and, as of Tuesday, the NBA's all-time leading scorer. He has 38,390, three more than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“I just take pride in learning how hard his work ethic was back then, and how he was as student of the game,” Marshall said, reflecting on his two-plus seasons as a teammate of, and mentor to, James. “One thing today is a lot of guys don't know about the past. If you look at LeBron, he knows about Oscar Robertson, he knows about Wilt Chamberlain, he knows about all the guys who paved the way. So he did a great job of knowing the history of the game, which I don't think a lot of youths today do. That's one thing that impressed me.
“And after games he was always, ‘Can I get this? Can I get that? Can I get the film right away so I can see what I did