Goss: Plainfield Central grad Derrick Marks spins scoreboard at Boise State
By Dick Goss email@example.com March 8, 2013 11:42PM
Boise State's Derrick Marks splits the defense of UNLV's Anthony Bennett (15) and Bryce Dejean-Jones. | AP Photo
Updated: April 11, 2013 6:12AM
A couple of years ago, Derrick Marks reached remarkable heights as a guard at Plainfield Central.
For example, there was the night he went 22-of-22 from the free-throw line.
Life only has gotten better as Marks took his game west to Boise State in Boise, Idaho.
College basketball fans in the Midwest and around the nation will say the Big Ten easily is the No. 1 conference as the NCAA Tournament approaches. What isn’t mentioned as often is the strength and depth of the Mountain West, of which Boise State (20-9, 8-7 before Saturday’s regular-season finale against San Diego State) is a member. Some rank the MWC No. 2.
“Anybody can lose in our conference on a given night,” Marks said.
Boise State, in fact, lost to Colorado State 77-57 on Jan. 30. Marks, who starts and normally plays about 30 minutes, became ill before the game, tried to go but lasted just nine minutes, scoring three points.
His presence in the rematch March 1 seems to have made a difference.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore guard scored the Broncos’ first 24 points and 26 of their first 28 in the second half of a 78-65 victory. He finished with 33 in the second half, when he hit all 11 shots, and 38 in the game. And no, he did not have to pinch himself to make sure it was happening.
“I really can’t explain it when I get on streaks like that,” said Marks, the Mountain West Player of the Week three times this season, tying New Mexico’s Alex Kirk for the most such honors. “All I think about is trying to make the next play.”
Perhaps his familiarity with scoring outbursts helps keep him on an even keel. He’s been there, done that. Not unlike the number Illinois’ Brandon Paul dropped on Ohio State last season in Champaign.
Marks scored 35 points, 28 in the second half, in an 83-70 win at Creighton when the Bluejays were ranked No. 11. That was the highest-ranked team Boise State ever had beaten.
He scored 24 in a 74-70 loss at Michigan State, 30 in a 74-67 win over Fresno State, 27 and 19 in 79-74 and 60-50 losses to New Mexico and all of his 17 in the second half of a 91-80 loss to Air Force.
Those numbers suggest Marks, who averages 16.0 points, is not about fattening up on patsies, either.
“I feel good about where I am,” said Marks, who averaged 9.4 points in earning honorable mention All-Mountain West accolades last season. “I made a jump this year in getting to the hoop and scoring, and I’m playing better defense. But I know that next year I have to make an even bigger jump.”
Marks’ 16 points-per-game average is second on the team behind Australian sophomore Anthony Drmic’s 17.0. Marks is averaging 3.9 assists and 1.9 steals, both team highs, and 3.5 rebounds.
His shooting percentages are excellent — .484 from the floor (149-of-308), .444 from three-point range (20-of-45) and .834 from the free-throw line (131-of-157). He always could get to the rim and draw fouls; he leads the Broncos in free throws made and attempted.
“I like to get to the basket, but I have a better outside shot now, too,” Marks said. “That’s something I have worked on a lot.”
He rightfully is proud of becoming a better defender as well.
“The whole thing about getting better defensively is the mind-set,” Marks said. “You’ve got to say you’re not going to let your man score. You’ve got to have that mind-set and keep it.”
You also need a short memory. In Tuesday’s 68-64 loss at UNLV, Marks was in severe foul trouble and was limited to 18 minutes. He scored four points.
“When something like that happens, all you can do is go on to the next game,” Marks said. “You can’t pay much attention to a game like that. It was frustrating, but we have to play through it.”
Marks said what the Broncos needed was to finish the regular season on a winning note against San Diego State, then “take care of business in the conference tournament. If we do that, we should get in (the NCAA Tournament).
“I’m looking forward to it. It would be my first one. We didn’t get in last year.”
The Broncos’ fate indeed may be decided by their performance in the league tournament. They are hovering around the “last ones in” or “first ones out” categories.
Here’s hoping they make it. An NCAA Tournament bid would be an appropriate reward for a kid from Plainfield who took his game a long way from home, has labored in the relative obscurity of the Mountain West and has demonstrated he can and will play with the big boys.
“Yeah, this is a long way from home — Creighton and Michigan State are as close as we have gotten — but I like it out here,” Marks said. “It’s a different part of the country in Boise, that’s for sure.”