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Why Michigan State men's basketball's Julius Marble will garner bigger role

January 23, 2020
<p>Freshman forward Julius Marble (34) dunks during the game against Eastern Michigan on Dec. 21, 2019 at the Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Eagles, 101-48.</p>

Freshman forward Julius Marble (34) dunks during the game against Eastern Michigan on Dec. 21, 2019 at the Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Eagles, 101-48.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

You’d be hard-pressed to see him showboat. He might crack an occasional smile with his “clone” freshman forward Malik Hall or banter with junior forward Xavier Tillman following practice.

Yet freshman forward Julius Marble, stoic but stout, and standing at 6-foot-8, 225 lbs., continues to stand out despite practicing with No. 11 Michigan State’s scout team.

“With those bigs, it's just the combination of guys,” coach Tom Izzo said. “Julius was unbelievable in practice after we got mad at him for not going hard enough, and he looked at a whole different player.”

As Izzo discussed “separation week” in the Big Ten, he suggested this may be the youngest team he’s ever had because many guys once seen as reserves and possibly redshirts — Marble included — are now “thrown into the fire” in a significant role on a title-contending team. 

Marble rose to the occasion when thrown into the proverbial fire in MSU’s 87-69 win over then No. 12 Michigan, as sophomore forwards Marcus Bingham Jr. and Thomas Kithier offered little resistance to Michigan’s Jon Teske and Austin Davis.

Marble held his own with his physicality, a trait Izzo and sophomore forward Gabe Brown praised him for early this season, showed poise in the biggest nine minutes of his young collegiate career and sneaky athleticism on a highlight-reel block on Davis.

As he's among the contenders for the revolving power forward spot, Marble’s stoicism bodes him well.

While Bingham Jr. tries to find a “happy medium” in shot selection, Hall attempts to defend without fouling and sophomore forward Kithier remains perpetually undersized, Marble offers a stout post figure while taking high-percentage shots.

The first-year big man’s most glaring faults have manifested at the baseline, where Marble has often let assignments slip past. 

But in practicing with the scout team, the Dallas product has sustained continual first-team assignments on the defensive end. 

“It just made me a smarter basketball player as far as knowing when I'm guarding someone, their certain tendencies,” Marble said. “And also when I'm playing, not to reach here, reach there. It also helps me become more physical honestly.”

The lowest-rated signee in the 2019 class, Marble averages just 6.3 minutes per game. As he garners more visits to the scorer's table, he’ll have opportunities to synchronize with senior guard Cassius Winston in the pick and roll. 

And as Izzo challenges his incoming players to incite a response, Marble looks to be turning the corner.

“I'm starting to get the hang of it a little bit,” Marble said. “Earlier in the year it was a little more towards anger towards (Izzo), but now I'm channeling in the right way … I wasn't doing my job and he let me know. So I had to do my job and luckily we had a great practice from it.”

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