CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. --- Seven years after he took home the camp’s MVP trophy, Kendall Marshall returned to the NBPA Top 100 Camp – as a coach. The record-breaking North Carolina floor general, who is preparing for his fifth season in the NBA, took a break from his offseason training at UNC to participate in the camp’s coaching program.
Marshall’s ties to Chapel Hill remain as strong as ever. It’s his offseason home - for workout sessions, classes, and pickup games - and one day will be his permanent home.
What motivated you to want to come back to this camp in a coaching role this year?
I’m interested in what I want to do after basketball. I’m really passionate about player development, skill work, things of that nature. And I know part of that is coaching, so I wanted to come here and be a part of the coaches program, try to learn some things. You realize how much goes into coaching and how hard it is. It’s been a fun week, though, I’m learning a lot.
Now getting to coach high school kids, do you reflect on how you’ve changed in the seven years since you were a camper here?
I’ve learned so much about basketball, I’m learned so much about being a human being, so much about life in general. It’s fun to think back to when I was that age, the things that were important to me. And now that I’m here as – I can’t even say as an adult – a 24-year-old, you see the bigger picture. Coaches used to always tell me when I was here ‘Be unselfish, play hard and people will notice.’ And I find myself saying it now and actually meaning it, whereas I just thought they were saying it to be saying it when I was playing.
With your interest in coaching, do you know what level or aspect of it you’ll want to pursue after your playing career?
As of right now I’m more interested in the skill work and the player development side, but I don’t know. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that maybe I need to look into coaching. Some of the stuff here has been very appealing, and some not so much. Hopefully I’ve got at least five, six years until I get into that part of my life.
Has it ever crossed your mind about one day coaching at North Carolina?
It’s crossed my mind some, but I think about all the former players that want to go back and coach at their alma mater – I think about those guys in line before me. It’s fun to think about sometimes, but it’s not my No. 1 priority right now.
How deep are your ties to Chapel Hill today?
Well, I’m building a house there. I’ve been working out there all summer…
What led to your decision to put down roots there?
I like the South, it’s a lot more slow paced. I’m familiar with the area, free workout facilities … Chapel Hill, between the type of people down there, it’s actually close between all my family on the East Coast – I thought it was the ideal spot for me.
What have your days around campus been like this summer?
For the whole first summer session, I was going to class in the mornings and at 12:45 me and Nate (Britt) were working out every day and then playing pickup three times a week.
You became such a central figure of Carolina Basketball by the end of your college career – with fans writing your number on their wrists as a show of support when you got injured – is it strange to return or maybe comforting?
It’s home for me. Obviously Virginia is where I was born and raised, but North Carolina is where I became who I am as a player and as a person. That family, that love, is not replicated anywhere else, so that always holds a special place in my heart.
How far away are you from getting your degree?
It’s hard, you can only do so much during the season and I probably should have paid more attention to it my first two years in the league and I didn’t. But I think I’m about 38 hours away. I can take one, maybe two (classes at a time). I took two classes first session, one online and one on campus, but I want to say I’m a second semester junior now. So in the past four years I’ve done a little over a semester’s worth (laughs).
Are other former teammates of yours doing the same thing?
Harrison (Barnes) has been taking classes, I know.
What is the motivation for you to continue to work toward your degree?
I promised my mom. … And you need a degree to coach college basketball.
How have the pickup games been lately at the Smith Center?
It’s been good. You have the team there three or four times a week, and I’ve been there almost every day. Reggie (Bullock) has been there, (Ra)Sheed (Wallace)’s been there consistently, (Ray) Felton was there …
Is it different being a former player in those games?
Yeah, you can call a lot of calls, check ball for no reason at all, when you lose you get to stay on the court. … I think about during that lockout year what Ray was doing to me every day.
What do you think about the current team that you’ve played with this summer?
I’m excited about them. I think they have a belief that they’re good now. Before they knew they were good but hadn’t showed it yet. And it wasn’t just the way they were winning, I felt like they were dominating performances. Between the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, they had a certain way they were carrying themselves. They started to believe and know that they were good. I think it will carry over and I think it’ll show on the court next year.
How close did you follow their run last season?
Very close. I became really close to Joel (Berry) and Theo (Pinson) last summer, so I was constantly talking to them and checking in on them.
What have you gotten to know about Berry on and off the court?
As a kid, he’s extremely animated. He’s always ready to have a good time, the life of the party, great guy. As a player he took that jump that you like to see a lot of college kids make from their freshman to sophomore year. I don’t know what it is, but you will never shoot the three well as a freshman at Carolina. Whether it be Reggie, Harrison, P.J. (Hairston), Justin (Jackson), Joel … but sophomore year he made that jump, he remained aggressive, stayed true to who he was, he still understood that he’s a scorer, an aggressor.
Then what’s the next step for him as a junior?
Being able to make plays for other people. But he has to continue to be aggressive and score while getting other guys involved. That’s when he takes that next step to ‘ok, maybe I am ready to play at the next level.’ What I’m really excited to see is that now he has that bull’s eye on his chest to where he’s that guy now and I’d like to see how he reacts to that.
Photos in story and video from Jim Hawkins, Chris Richards, Donald Phelps, and Kendall Marshall.