MADISON - If there were awards for toughness, George Marshall would be a leading candidate to be a recipient.
Having one of best high school seasons for Chicago Brooks Academy, Marshall was in the midst of his senior season when a wrong turned landed him on the shelf for six weeks with a broken hand.
"It was devastating when it happened, but the doctor said I would be back around playoff time," Marshall said. "Mentally I was determined to be ready and lead my team as far as I could."
With his hand still sore but medically cleared, Marshall returned to lead his team to Chicago Public League Championship, hitting the game-winner with four seconds left in the semifinals and scoring game-high 23 points in finals.
"He's going to do whatever it takes to win games for us," said assistant coach Gary Close.
In Marshall's case, that time appears to be as early as tonight when No.14 Wisconsin (hosts Colgate (1-0) at the Kohl Center.
One of the strengths for Wisconsin (1-0) this season is the logjam in the backcourt, as the Badgers have returning starters Josh Gasser and All-American Jordan Taylor back, while sophomore Ben Brust scored a career-high 14 points off the bench against Kennesaw State and appears on the verge of a breakout season.
UW coach Bo Ryan allows each player to make his own decision whether or not to redshirt and while Marshall realizes he may not get many minutes, especially with fellow guard Traevon Jackson receiving the most time of the freshmen, he isn't typically one to back down from a challenge.
"I don't expect anything less," Marshall said. "It's part of my game, that tough play."
That toughness had carried over to his early college tenure. Marshall reportedly received the first bloody nose of fall practices and did not miss a beat, enduring him to his teammates and coaches.
"It's been a big adjustment coming from high school straight to the college workouts," Marshall said. "Over the time, we've all bonded well, played a lot of pick-up games together, worked out together and had some challenges where we've had to push each other."
Marshall's commitment was a major coup for Wisconsin and former assistant coach Howard Moore, who had been close before on a number of talented prospects in the Chicago area but couldn't quite seal the deal. Spurring scholarship offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, DePaul, Wake Forest and Xavier, Marshall averaged 17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game and was named an AP second-team all-state selection despite missing the six weeks.
"He's got the right values and has some great basketball skills, in terms of quickness and willingness to compete," said Close of Marshall, who averaged over 16 points during his final three years of high school. "In terms of prototypical point guards, he's got those character traits. He's got to continue to develop all three of them and I think he's going to be a real good leader."
If recent history has anything to do with it, Marshall will follow Ryan's successful path of developing a point guard. When NBA star Devin Harris was running the offense, Kammron Taylor was right there studying under him. Then came Trevon Hughes; then Taylor and now Gasser and Marshall.
"I've learned a lot of knowledge about the program," Marshall said. "Jordan is a great player, really smart player and I have picked up a lot of things already with his basketball IQ. I am just studying what he does to try to emulate it into my game so I can be ready when my time comes."
The qualities of Marshall are obvious, and are spelled out right on his forearms. On one arm, Marshall has the word ‘respect' tattooed on his bicep. On the other bicep, the word ‘loyalty,' ink he did over the summer before settling on campus.
It's two words that make up his lifestyle and perfectly describes why Wisconsin spent so much effort recruiting him.
"He is a very sharp, intelligent young man," Ryan said. "He brings quickness with the ball and the ability to transition offensively from end to end in a blink. As he continues to grow and mature physically, his quickness will become even more of a weapon."
UW release on Marshall's decision
Freshman guard George Marshall announced on Wednesday his intention to redshirt the 2011-12 season for the Wisconsin men's basketball team.
"I just looked at this season and came to the conclusion that a fifth year in this program will be more beneficial than what is potentially a season with limited minutes," George said prior to Wisconsin's game vs. Colgate. "I asked myself if it was worth playing this season, when I could possibly be playing a lot of minutes as a fifth-year senior."
"This is a great opportunity for George to have a one-year internship under arguably the best point guard in the country," associate head coach Greg Gard said Wednesday. "He can learn from that and at the same time know that he'll be better physically and fundamentally as a player at 22 or 23 years old than he is as at 19. That extra year at the back end of his career can really turn into something special."
A native of Chicago, Ill., Marshall is one of five freshmen on the Badgers' roster. He will continue to practice with his teammates this season and will play as a redshirt freshman for the Badgers in 2012-13.
"I've talked to some of the assistant coaches and Ryan Evans about the decision," Marshall added. "Ryan definitely suggested it and he said he's really happy he redshirted and it helped him a lot. I'm confident that I could compete for minutes this season, but this just gives me another year to prove it."
"He can definitely play at this level," Gard said. "The experience that he's getting going against Jordan Taylor every day in practice – and those are some battles – will be worth as much game experience as he would get this season. He has to use that to his advantage and he understands that.
The unsure amount of minutes he would have played this season are being invested and put into the bank, so to speak, and they're gaining interest. He'll take those out in his fifth year knowing that he'll have an opportunity to play a lot of minutes as a senior."