Born to Lead
ARLINGTON, Va. --- Reggie Bullock remembers the first time he got the chance to see what kind of a leader Kendall Marshall really is.
Bullock and Marshall were at the Global Challenge in the summer of 2008. The two Carolina commitments were both big names in their class but as rising juniors at a senior-dominated camp, Bullock and Marshall were low on the basketball food chain.
When it came time to play, Marshall drew a team loaded with talent including Kentucky-bound DeMarcus Cousins.
It's no secret that being a young point guard on a team with Cousins has a certain chew-toy-in-a-rottweiler-cage potential to it if you don't handle it properly. And understandably, most point guards in that situation would've kept quiet and let the big dogs play.
But when Marshall stepped on the floor, he took over.
"We're at the USA Global Challenge, there were big-time players out there -- DeMarcus Cousins and everyone -- and he's out there telling them what to do," Bullock laughed. "He's saying, ‘You go here, you go here.' He's just a floor general."
As funny as it might sound for Marshall -- or anyone -- to tell a player like Cousins what to do, that's what a point guard has to do.
"You can't be afraid of not being liked," Marshall said. "As a leader you have to tell players when they're doing what they're supposed to do and when they're not doing what they're supposed to do."
In an era of combo guards and scoring point guards, Marshall says he's always been a point guard in every aspect of his life. Whether it's leading people off the court or playing on it, Kendall has always been a one.
"It started at a young age," Kendall's dad, Dennis Marshall, said. "It was just knowing how to play the game and demonstrating that he knew how to play the game by the way he played. If you show you know how to play the game and try to get other people to play like that and you're successful, people will follow you."
And people have followed Marshall.
Marshall was handed the keys to two top-notch programs in the Boo Williams AAU team and Bishop O'Connell at a young age, building his reputation as a great leader with his effort on the court and in practice.
Marshall says if you don't show the willingness to do what you're asking of your teammates, you have no credibility as a leader. Earning the respect of his teammates through his effort is half the battle.
"As a point guard, no matter what, your team is going to look to you," Marshall said. "So you have to set the standard early with what you're going to expect from them and what you're going to expect from yourself."
Bishop O'Connell teammate Maurice Williams says people pick up on Marshall's credibility pretty quickly.
"I think everybody has an incredible respect level for Kendall," Bishop O'Connell teammate Maurice Williams said. "He's a McDonald's All-American and everything like that but he's also someone you can talk to. Some people are good on the court but people don't really like to be around them. He's just a good guy to be around. It makes easy to relate to him."
On the AAU and camp circuit Marshall has become a popular teammate because he always takes care of his teammates.
"One thing with any team I've played on that I try to do off the break is bring the team together and basically tell them off the break, ‘Guys, just run the floor and I'll get you the ball,'" Marshall said. "It's an easy way to score."
Marshall backs up his talk, too. Sooner or later everyone who plays with Marshall knows that he's going to take care of them. In his first practice with Williams at Bishop O'Connell, Marshall reminded Williams he needed to keep his head on a swivel if he was going to play on the same court as him.
"The first time I practiced with him I cut back door and I had my head down and he just hit me with the ball and my nose started bleeding,'" Williams recalled. "Kendall told me, ‘You were open.'"
After four years of being the quintessential leader at Bishop O'Connell, Marshall took it to the next level his senior year, winning a private school state championship.
But while the championship was a fitting conclusion to Marshall's career, Bishop O'Connell coach Joe Wootten said Marshall's final act as team leader -- his speech at the sports banquet last week -- was an even more fitting end to his career than the state title.
In the speech Marshall thanked his teammates and teachers, putting their struggle and hard work into perspective.
Wootten said Marshall's speech was one of the best speeches he'd ever heard -- possibly even better than Marcus Ginyard's legendary banquet speech five years ago.
"He just got it," Wootten said. "I know Carolina had a tough year this year and obviously their standards are incredibly high, which they should be, but his mentality is going to help them a lot. Is he going to be the biggest athlete in the ACC? No. But he gets it.
"He'll be coachable. He'll make others around him better. He enjoys the success of his teammates."
(Check back tomorrow for Part III ...)