CHICAGO — All the attention was on Kendall Marshall’s right wrist. Yet most of the pain was in his right elbow.
That was back in March when Marshall, North Carolina’s cerebral point guard, fell hard during an NCAA tournament victory over Creighton in Greensboro. The wrist was broken, costing Marshall the remainder of what became his last college season.
But the bigger issue proved to be that “funny bone” injury, as Marshall described it. Nothing funny about the residual pain: Six weeks later an MRI revealed a fracture, not a bruise, that limits Marshall still.
He’s in Chicago for this week’s NBA pre-draft combine, but the elbow still bars him from any contact drills. The fracture – what Marshall said was a “shaved” elbow – did not require surgery. But the undiagnosed break could have responded to treatment, and maybe he’d be better prepared now for the workouts that await him as a projected mid-first round pick.
“I can’t do all the (physical) tests right now,” Marshall said during an interview session Thursday. “I just want to show I can shoot the ball better than I did last season.”
That will be the rub in Marshall’s draft prospects. Exceptional a playmaker as he is (9.8 assists per game last season), that 8.1 scoring average and the apparent limits of his shooting range make him an incomplete player.
“I know my strength is getting people involved and everybody at the next level will score. I don’t need to score 20 points at the next level,” Marshall said. “I feel like I can adjust to any situation. But if a team is looking for a point guard to score first, that could be tough.”
It was apparent Thursday that Marshall handled turning pro with the same calculated approach that marked how he ran the point in Chapel Hill. He says he loved college life and never anticipated after two seasons having the option to turn pro.
Circumstances pushed him out the door. This is widely considered a weak point-guard draft, which Marshall said was a factor in his decision; he might never be more marketable than in 2012. Then, fellow underclassmen Harrison Barnes and John Henson turned pro and the tide crested.
“It just seemed time,” Marshall explained. “I think I’m at my best with weapons all around me. Everybody was leaving. It wasn’t going to be the same.”
So now he sets out to make the case that a guy with his head for basketball and a gift for dribbling and passing can evolve into even more.
“I need to show I’m not a liability in other areas,” Marshall concluded. “I know I’m going to be a good overall basketball player at the next level.”