So Head Coach Herb Sendek hit the recruiting trail in search of someone who could provide Carson with an immediate running mate for the upcoming 2013-14 season. What he found was the near perfect match in Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall; a 6-4, 205 pound defensive-minded shooting guard with a consistent outside shot who brings both experience and leadership to a team that hopes to contend for another post-season opportunity this year.
Marshall led the Nittany Lions in both three- point shooting and scoring each of the past two seasons, and his 15.3 points per game in 2012 were sixth best in the Big-10 conference. Marshall also averaged 1.5 steals per game, seventh best in the conference, on his way to earning an All-Big-10 Honorable Mention in 2012.
Over the course of his three years at Penn State, Marshall scored 857 career points and registered 46 double-digit scoring games. His 108 made three point shots ranks 12th all-time for the Nittany Lions.
"We're really excited that Jermaine is a Sun Devil," said Sendek on Tuesday. "He's already proven himself to be an excellent player at the highest level of college basketball. One thing he has consistently done is put the ball in the basket. The Big-10 is notorious for being a stingy league when it comes to scoring and an excellent defensive league. Yet, he led the Nittany Lions with over 15 points per game last season.
"He also is a young man of great character and we expect him to add leadership to our team as well. We're glad he's in Tempe and look forward to having him with us this season."
Following Penn State's disappointing 10-21, 2-16 season last year, the redshirt senior announced his plans to leave Happy Valley in pursuit of another opportunity. After originally considering foregoing his final year of college eligibility to play professionally overseas, Marshall reconsidered his options and opted to transfer for one final season of college basketball.
"I think it's a great place in Tempe and then you've got great coaches," said Marshall. "You've got fun guys to be around on my visit. I got to hang out with the guys and hang out with the coaches, and I got a great feel and my family did as well. I just felt like it was the fit for me."
For Marshall, the tipping point was the possibility of playing alongside Carson, the Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the Year in 2012, and the chance to make an NCAA tournament run on a suddenly rejuvenated Sun Devil squad.
"Jahii was big," he remarked. "He's a great point guard and as a shooting guard you want to play with a guy who's already established and like I said, he's great on both ends of the floor. He has a great ability to pass the ball. I was talking to him through the process and he told me that they would love to have me and I'd be a great addition. I feel the same way so hopefully we can have a great backcourt and a great team this year."
Marshall arrived on campus earlier this month, just in time to see his new teammates depart for China to participate a Pac-12 conference global outreach exhibition where they toured the country and played three games against foreign competition. Still, in just the few weeks that he says the transition has been smooth and he's adjusting into his new role as a senior leader for the Sun Devils.
"The transition's been great. Just meeting all the guys and hanging out with all the guys, coming into the gym and getting some shots up and transitioning into class, so it's been fun," said Marshall. "The guys made it easy. They welcomed me with open arms and even just playing pick-up, talking about a few things and what we're doing defensively and stuff like that.
"Being a fifth year senior, I think just having to bring leadership, an ability to score, and also to play defense and understanding the game at this level. This is my fifth year now, so I've got a pretty good understanding of the game."
Still, the decision to leave Penn State wasn't an easy one for the Pennsylvania native who was recruited by the Nittany Lions since he was a freshman at Red Land High School.
"I started my career there," he recalled. "They recruited me since I was a freshman in high school. I love Penn State to this day. There are no hard feelings. I love everything about it, both the staff and the players. It was very hard to leave and a tough decision but in this case I kind of had to be selfish and I wanted to start fresh and make the transition out here to Tempe."
In his first three seasons at Penn State, Marshall was a regular in the Nittany Lion lineup. He played in 18 games as a freshman and had a team-high four 20+ scoring efforts as a sophomore. Last year, Marshall averaged 34 minutes per game and led PSU in scoring on 14 occasions, including a career-high 29 points against Michigan State, making him one of the more experienced players in one of the nation's toughest conferences.
"It was rough," said Marshall of last season. "We finished at the bottom of the pack. The Big-10 is very tough, very competitive. And like Coach Herb talked about, it's a grind out league. Penn State, I think we were one of the toughest teams. I think teams hated playing us. We played very hard. Sometimes we just weren't as talented as the other teams.
"It's a great league, like I said. Unfortunately, we finished at the bottom of the pack but I think we were a tough team and we got better at the end of the year."
That steady progress by Marshall and his Penn State teammates culminated in a late season 84-78 upset win over fourth ranked Michigan, the first conference win of the season for the Nittany Lions. Marshall led the way, pouring in 25 points, including shooting 6-10 from behind the three point line, making for one of his most memorable experiences at PSU.
"Phenomenal. For that to be our first win, against the fourth ranked team in the country, that was huge," he said. "It was great. It was a great game, great match-ups, and like I said, they've got great guys on their team; Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke, and Coach Beilein . We were able to pull one out that night and for that to be or first win was a great night."
Now settled in and with his new teammates back in Tempe, Marshall looks forward to the opportunity of creating more memories similar to that dramatic win in 2013. With Carson, he now has someone to run with, and hopefully few goals to chase down along the way.
"We talk about it every day. We think we'll have a great team," said Marshall. "We got a lot of guys that can play great pieces. I think our guys like each other a lot and I think it reflects on the floor and I think we're a great team. Hopefully we can carry that on to the season and I think if we do so, we'll make a great run."