Iowa CITY, Iowa - Devyn Marble has believed in himself since he was a lightly recruited prospect coming out of Detroit. Confidence has served him well.
"I just want to be dominant," Marble said when asked of the next step for him. "I want people to say, "He was dominant" whether I was scoring, defensively, rebounding.That's my goal this year, to be the most dominant player on the court."
Providence, Dayton and Detroit were among Marble's other scholarship offers coming out of Southfield-Lathrup High. A skinny 175 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame, Big Ten schools outside of Iowa took a pass.
"Towards the end of last year you saw him become one of the premier players in our league, and he did that by showing an array of skills," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "He played point. He drove it. He was able to play in transition. He was able to score one-on-one. He was able to play in pick-and-roll, and able to play in zones and really play with a tremendous amount of confidence."
Marble hasn't received a lot of preseason hype despite being Iowa's leading returning scorer (11.5 PPG) and assist man (3.6 APG). He averaged 5.8 more points and handed out 2.3 more assist as a sophomore than he did as a freshman.
"I knew after watching the freshmen year tape, I knew what I need to do and different things that were going to help out my game," said Marble, who is up to 6-6 and 194 pounds. "I worked on stuff for the point guard position. I feel like my ball handling has come a long way. I'm much more crisp with the ball."
Versatility might be Marble's greatest attribute. He is expected to play at the 1-3 spots this year as he has in his first two.
"I feel like I'm one of the best at each spot in the Big Ten this year," Marble said. "I feel like I was one of the best point guards in the Big Ten last year. When I came out, that's what I tried to prove. I'm going to do that this year at the two. I'll do it at all three positions."
McCaffery said his junior needs to take a step forward in development.
"I think he will," the coach said. "The reason I think he will is I watched him this summer and this spring, and in the fall, and I saw someone who is determined to continue to get better.
"So now what's that next step? We've got to be a little more consistent. He's really worked on his shot. He obviously can score the ball, but his shooting is going to have to be a little more consistent. I'd like to see him sort of settle into that role where Matt was last year, as maybe our go-to guy, our go-to guy late. I think he can do that."
McCaffery said he also needs Marble to be a defensive stopper. He was inconsistent on that end of the floor last season.
"I've worked hard," Marble said. "I've taken a lot of yelling sessions. Coach (Kirk) Speraw has really been working on me.
"I'm much better than I was at it last year, but I still can get better. I know I can play defense. It was never my potential or a lack of ability for me on defense. It was mentally. I'm more mentally focused and strong this year. I'm ready to take on that task."
Marble delivered a particularly memorable play and opened some eyes last year when he dunked over Minnesota 7-footer, Ralph Sampson . It was shown as one of the top plays on national sportscasts that night.
"I didn't think to much of it when it happened or even after it," he said. "I just thought it was a normal play. I really didn't think it was that crazy. It was the only way I was going to score that basket. I had to do that."
While Marble hopes to pick of the slack left by Gatens' departure on the floor, he is working on leading off of it like last year's captain.
"I've never been a guy that was vocal," Marble said. "I always led by example, so it's something new for me. Everybody around me knows that. The coaching staff knows that. They're pushing me, but they're giving me time. It's not something that's just going to happen over night. Eric May is doing a good job right now, also."