Through all the especially close player dynamics in Head Coach Tom Izzo’s tenure — Mateen Cleaves and Antonio Smith, Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers, Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes and the current pairing of Marcus Bingham Jr. and Gabe Brown — Michigan State welcomes in yet another unique relationship: one that will produce “4 years of pure comedy.”
According to freshman Malik Hall’s Instagram, this is what we should expect from his friendship with fellow first-year forward Julius Marble.
Hall, the witful jester, cracked remarks and Marble, the wallflower chiming in the background, discussed their dynamic as two sat next to each other at two corner tables at MSU media day. You could get a sense of how assured they are of their relationship.
And according to Bingham Jr., this claim is something he’s seen in the two so far.
“They're always with each other,” Bingham Jr. said. “Everything Julius says is funny to Malik. Everything Malik says is funny to Julius.”
When asked if he foresees the two becoming a source of antics on the bench like he and Brown provide, Bingham Jr. dismissed the thought. “They ain't got the swag like we do, but they could be like us.”
Marble obviously had his rebuttal to Bingham Jr. when asked how he and Hall compare to their contemporary duo.
“Me and Malik are really close, and it's only going to get stronger as the year goes, but I think ... we definitely have more swag than them, but it's okay,” Marble said assuredly.
In fairness, Hall and Marble’s friendship is one that seemed unlikely not six months ago.
While Hall announced his pledge to MSU late in the process after being heavily pursued by Purdue, Marble — who missed out on prime recruiting time in his junior year with an injured foot — didn’t receive an MSU offer until February.
After striking out on two marquee prospects -— forwards Isaiah Stewart and Vernon Carey — MSU turned to Marble late in the calendar.
Marble, of course, committed the day after his official visit — MSU’s senior day victory over Michigan.
Hall hails from Wichita’s Sunrise Christian Academy, joining fellow Buffalo alumnus Lourawls Nairn Jr. at Michigan State, while Marble comes from Jesuit Dallas.
Even to Hall, the friendship seemed unlikely when they first arrived in East Lansing.
“I was really scared. When he was first coming, I thought he was going to be super weird,” Hall said as he smirked at Marble, who placidly shrugged it off, shaking his head with a grin. “I was really hoping he wasn't going to end up weird to the point where I was like, 'Bro, dang… I'm with this dude.'”
Hall spoke charismatically, while Marble murmured his two cents as he continued to point out that they’re more similar than they are different.
“But then, I don't know how, we just liked the same things,” Hall said. “The same music, the same foods for the most part.
“Drake ... some Trippie Redd ... Frank (Ocean), Juice WRLD, Post Malone ... I ain't gonna lie. That makes it sound kind of soft. Who do we listen to that's kinda hard?”
Hall continued to showcase his charisma as he posed the rhetorical question, and the two laughed when considering it.
“Gunna, (Young) Thug. We listen to basically what everybody listens to for the most part,” Hall said. “DaBaby and (Lil Uzi Vert), those are big. We just tend to be more calm, relaxed and laid-back in our music style than like everybody else.”
Izzo, of course, spoke on the two forwards’ athletic similarity when evaluating their prospective freshman season.
“Malik Hall and Julius Marble are a little bit (like) clones,” Izzo said. “One's a little bit better shooter. That'd be Malik. One's a little tougher ... and that would be Julius.”
While they share many commonalities, Marble recognizes the nuances of their presence in the locker room.
“I'm not a big energy guy as far as yelling and stuff like that,” Marble said plainly. “But I will be a spark as far as my play, playing harder and stuff like that.”
It’s obvious Hall strives to be the primary vocal leader of the two, speaking at length of their dynamic and what it will contribute to the team. Hall can be seen yelling enthusiastically at practice in inter-squad scrimmages, while Marble rolls out his calm, collected self.
They are the perfect duo, but also the perfect complements, jawing playfully – and sometimes not so playfully – at each other as they contest in the post.
Brown sees this in the pair, and in Marble especially, and discerns that, as far as their play on the court, Marble and Hall are ahead of where he and Bingham stood at this point a year ago.
“They are better than us last year. I can say that because right now, they're physical,” Brown said.
“Julius is a physical big, like really a physical big. I feel like he's ready to play the game of basketball and ready to play at the Big Ten level, and Malik is going to bring energy. He's going to bring passion. He's going to bring his love for the game, and you need that type of person.”
Just as Brown spoke highly of their dynamic, Hall did the same, considering for the first time a potential rivalry between the pairs, offering a rebuttal of his own to Bingham Jr.’s assessment.
"Honestly, I ain't gonna lie. Before this, I never really thought about it. … But I’m a very competitive person,” Hall said.
“At the end of me and Julius' four years, I feel like we'll have brought better memories than Gabe and Marky."
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