• Tony Jimenez

Marion Made His Mark At SLCC



You've probably never heard of Marion Humphrey, a 6-2 guard who played for two seasons at San Diego before coming to Salt Lake, Utah junior college for a season. But make no mistake: he made his mark. Not simply through the tangibles but through the intangibles, too. A hidden gem. In coach’s lingo, a steal.

 

Don’t be misled just because Humphrey, a native of Hoover, Ala., played just less than half-a-game – an average of 18.8 minutes – in the second of two seasons at San Diego. For the Toreros, he had 10 points and dished out three assists in a game against Gonzaga, a perennial Final Four contender in Division-I.


And don’t be misled because he only played a little more than that, an average 18.9 minutes at Salt Lake. Coach Kyle Taylor played about 11 players an equal amount of minutes so no one player got much time – from a low of 12:05 to a high of 23:04 – on the floor and his talented group of players stayed fresh.

 

All of the players at Salt Lake knew they wouldn’t be in the game very long when they went in and that helped each of them in several ways. Each player fit his own style into the game at hand. It also raised the hunger level of every player. For Humphrey, that meant that he knew he “had to play hard.” No matter the school, Humphrey made the most of his time.



Salt Lake (35-2), the National JC Athletic Association Tournament runner-up last March, had seven players with NCAA Division l scholarships as of mid-May. Surprisingly, Humphrey was not one of them.


While Humphrey remained unsigned, “All of my teammates deserve what they got. But it just motivates me to do better. I don’t have any regrets going to Salt Lake. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish when I was there. I was around a lot of good players every day in practice and everything made me a better player.”

 

Offensively, Humphrey - a scorer when the chance presented itself - had a terrific pull-up game off the bounce and an effective floater. “He is an excellent finisher at the rim because of his ability to dunk it over you and his ability to hang in the air to avoid contact and finish,” said Taylor. “His talent and skill set are tremendous. He plays hard and with a ton of effort. He can impact the game in so many different ways, from scoring to defending to rebounding to blocking a shot.”

 

Since Humphrey started playing at Salt Lake, he said, virtually every facet of his game has improved. That includes his tenacity for the game, his confidence and ability to play at a high level with a good pace and solid effort. “He played in every game we had and did a phenomenal job for us in terms of embracing his role,” said Taylor. “He always said to me, ‘I will do whatever is best for the team.’ He started some nights and was terrific.” And when he came in off the bench in other games he more than did his part." Said Taylor: “He has great maturity and character and that is part of why he is so successful. We allowed him to play to his strengths.”

 

Humphrey’s teammates vouch for him. They watched or went head-to-head against Marion in practice daily for the season’s six months. The way 5-8 point guard Chase Adams saw it, Marion’s statistical showing – 8.5 points, 3.4 rebounds. 2.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game – doesn’t necessarily mean that he can’t play at the Division l level. Adams, in fact, said Humphrey’s averages were downright deceiving. Averages are not what it’s all about, he said.


“I saw him every day in practice and he is something else,” said Adams, a starter who’s bound for Jackson St., Miss. “He is super athletic, an underdog if ever there was one. There were a couple of times in a game where I threw what I knew were bad passes, but he came up with the ball effortlessly and made me look good. He opened eyes in the (pre-season) Jamborees and so I thought he would really be recruited at the end of the season.”

 

Festus Ndumanya, 6-7, who will play at Southern University in Louisiana next season, says Humphrey’s play in practice was consistent with his showing in a game. “As a teammate and as a person he’s just awesome,” said Ndumanya. “In the year that I played on the same team with him he was always there, no matter what the circumstances were, on or off the floor. I know he will wind up in a great place because every team needs someone like that around.”

 

If blood lines mean anything then you can count on Humphrey making it somewhere sometime down the road at a four-year school. His bother Marlon is an all-pro cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens; brother Maudrecus played football at Alabama-Birmingham and Arkansas; sister Brittley was an All-American track athlete at LSU; sister Breona ran track at Alabama-Birmingham; his mother Barbara was a track athlete of note at Alabama-Birmingham; and his father Bobby was a big-name athlete at Alabama before going to the NFL and making his mark playing for Denver and Miami.

 

Humphrey has proved his value and, according to Adams, his off-the-court demeanor – being humble – will make him a big asset to any team: he doesn’t brag, he just tries to outwork his opponent.


Taylor agrees, saying: “Marion is a very humble and so is his entire family, including his brother Marlon. Marion didn’t bring Marlon up, but teammates would ask about him, and I would as well. When Marion talked about Marlon you could tell there was a high level of respect for him. He admires him and knows he’s incredibly talented.”



And so how did Taylor find out about Marion’s prowess on the court? Salt Lake associate head coach CJ Killin saw his name in the transfer portal, according to Taylor, and watched a few video clips of him on the floor then said, "We need this guy." Only problem was, so did a number of other jucos. Humphrey visited New Mexico and talked to Pensacola, Fla. and Tallahassee, Fla. Nothing materialized.


“In the end, Salt Lake was too good of an opportunity for me,” said Marion.


Said Taylor: “We convinced Marion that a year of JUCO to re-set things would be good for him.”

 

Now Marion hopes to head on to bigger and even better things.


Postscript: According to Coach Taylor, he may not need to hope much more. Marion has apparently made a verbal commitment to D1 UT-Arlington.


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