by Cyrus dos Santos
Central Connecticut State University men’s basketball coach Donyell Marshall, is a mentor to student athletes on and off the court. Marshall’s goal is to make the team feel like family, in addition to helping the Blue Devil’s improve their technique.
“Not only do I have to teach them the game of basketball, I have to teach them how to become men,” Marshall said.
“Not to say that their parents haven’t done that, but I think I’m an extension of that,” Marshall said.
Marshall, a 15 year National Basketball Association veteran, was drafted 4th overall out of UCONN by the Minnesota Timberwolves. During his time in the league, he played for 8 teams and finished with a .435 career field goal percentage. He ranks 302 for all-time points scored. Throughout his professional career, when it came to negative actions, Marshall stayed out of the public eye.
“I was never in the paper for nothing negative,” Marshall said.
“I think I’ve always been a good mentor to my own kids…I’m a role model, they’re all my kids, to me,” Marshall said.
“He takes us out to eat,” said Khalen Cumberlander, a senior on the team. “We went bowling last week,” he added, noting the many ways Marshall offers himself to his players. Cumberlander noted that he makes the men feel “that we’re family at the end of the day.”
“That’s the way we were at Connecticut,” Marshall said, referring to his time at UCONN under Coach Jim Calhoun. “We still see each other, we call each other,” he continued.
In the midst of a frustrating season, one of the team’s players suffered a loss in the family leading up to the Blue Devil’s game against Saint Francis University; Central’s first win in the Northeast Conference. Flowers were sent by the team to show their support.
“The first thing I said was, ‘This is our brother,’ ” Marshall said. “He’s going home to go through stuff, but you sent him on a high note,” Marshall continued.
“We preach the family atmosphere,” Marshall said, referring to recruiting players.
This was something he learned from his own experience in high school.
“I felt the sincerity in Coach Calhoun,” he remembered. “When he came to my house, he looked me in the eye the whole time.”
Marshall also noted that despite being a McDonald’s All-American player, Calhoun gave him no promise of a starting position; it was his genuineness that led Marshall to UCONN.
“When I recruit, that’s the way I try to recruit,” Marshall said.
Reflecting on the core of players he has now, Marshall’s commitment to the players extends beyond the twelve-man roster.
“We have the trust and belief of the parents,” he said.
“I guess it’s translated over,” Marshall added, “Because the crazy part is, after games when we lose, the first people who text me are the parents of the kids.”
Marshall recalled the comments he gets from parents including words of encouragement such as “Keep your head up coach” and “We still believe in you.”
“That always puts a smile back on your face. That you have the trust and belief of the parents,” Marshall said.
Marshall’s own sincerity is a by-product of the men he’s played for over the years. Though Calhoun’s style helps at the college level, there are others who’ve left their mark on Marshall.
“Jerry Sloan is probably my favorite NBA coach,” he noted.
The Blue Devil’s level of success this season is far from what fans may be looking for. But, Marshall is mindful, despite their 5-22 record, that there are signs of improvement.
“They were 351 last year,” Marshall said, concerning the team’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). CCSU is now 341, out of 351. “So, we jumped up ten spots,” Marshall said.
“You can look at the difference between this year and last year, the culture’s changing” said sophomore guard, Austin Nehls.
“If it was going to be easy, then everybody would be doing it,” said Marshall, referring to a motto they’ve adopted this season.
Last season, the Blue Devils finished with a 4-25 losing record.
“I’m a competitor,” said Marshall. “While I might have made a one game improvement, I’m not happy with myself,” Marshall continued.
“What did I do wrong in those games that we didn’t win,” he reflected.
As far as when fans can expect to see a significant change, Marshall stated that he didn’t want to put a time-table on it.
“Because for me, the competitiveness I have, next year I want to be better. Next year I want to get to the NCAA Tournament,” Marshall said.
“My time-table is always now,” said Marshall.