A 7-year-old Kendall Marshall, small and wiry, sat in the front row at Bishop O’Connell High’s summer basketball camp and jotted down notes into a notebook.
Each camp Marshall attended, he did the same. Drills, lectures, key situations. Anything that he thought could help him improve.
His attention to detail was the exception rather than the rule, said O’Connell basketball Coach Joe Wootten, who coached Marshall for four years at the Arlington school.
“It became who he was,” Wootten said.
On Thursday night, Marshall’s attention to detail will come to fruition. He’s expected to be a first-round selection in the NBA draft, one of four North Carolina players likely to be drafted.
Marshall will watch the draft with his family in Arlington. Although he felt he was deserving of an invitation to attend the draft in Newark, Marshall was not one of the 14 players invited by the league.
Will he use that as motivation?
“Without a doubt,” Marshall said. “I think any player, any athlete whenever something is said about them or they don’t get what they deserve, it just makes you work harder.”
Marshall traveled to North Carolina for a few days this week, played pickup basketball with former teammates, spent time with coaches and visited his academic adviser.
“I was missing college,” said Marshall, who left after his sophomore year.
Marshall enters the draft mostly recovered from the broken right wrist and fractured elbow that caused him to miss North Carolina’s final two games of the NCAA tournament.
He said the wrist is coming along great and that he can “do almost anything on the basketball court.” He said the elbow is about 80 percent, which kept him out of physical activities at the NBA combine.
He said he’s “very optimistic” that he’ll be drafted into a situation that will allow him to flourish as a point guard.
At 6 feet 4, Marshall is one of the top pure point guards in the draft; he averaged 9.7 assists last season.
Wootten said Marshall always has been a terrific passer. As a high school freshman, Wootten said Marshall could throw a pass the length of the court “on a rope and hit a guy in stride.” Marshall also learned how to become a scorer if teams focused on his passing.
“I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been a point guard my entire life,” Marshall said. “So there’s no question in my mind what I have to be good at. I was able to find my niche and was blessed with players around me. I think that made my path easier.”
Marshall’s path to the draft wasn’t always easy. As an 11-year-old, he was ranked the nation’s top fifth-grade basketball player. While ranking players so young was roundly criticized, the pressure on Marshall only grew heavier.
“I don’t think people realized all the negativity that came along with that,” Marshall said. “Being in the spotlight from such a young age, I really had to have thick skin and fight against controversy and adversity.”
Marshall said the attention prepared him well for the ACC and perhaps beyond.
He committed to North Carolina before the start of his sophomore year and led the Knights to a Virginia Independent Schools State Championship. As a senior, he earned All-Met and McDonald’s all-American honors.
“Sometimes you just see that player make that leap forward and he goes to a different level,” Wootten said. “He was totally comfortable and the game really became slow for him in his mind.”
The notebook no longer travels with Marshall, but he said he still is constantly looking for ways to grow.
He develops his game by analyzing other players and attempting to mimic their skill sets. The ball fakes of Rajon Rondo. The pick-and-rolls of Steve Nash. Or the outlet passing of Jason Kidd.
“I’m still trying to take as much as I can and continue to learn,” Marshall said. “I feel like I still have a long way to go.”