Dimondale, Mich. — In the official statement announcing the signing of Julius Marble, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo compared his skills to Andre Hutson, who helped the coach win his only national championship.
Since then, other recent names of MSU frontcourt relative royalty have been tossed around to describe the Dallas freshman: Marble said Izzo told him he might play a Kenny Goins role, or push the ball like Draymond Green with versatility like Adreian Payne.
Teammate Aaron Henry said Marble could be like team leader Xavier Tillman with how hard he works. With the media questioning him Tuesday, the name Jaren Jackson Jr. was brought up to ask Marble about his shooting potential for a post player.
These are noteworthy comparisons for a freshman coming to East Lansing slotted by the 247Sports Composite rankings as the nation’s No. 213 recruit.
“That’s a great person (to be compared to), Jaren is a great guy,” Marble said after the question. “I got to meet him a little bit and talk to him. He’s a really great guy, really outgoing. That’s a great comparison, and I hope to live up to that.
“I’m just doing me, trying to help the team out as soon as possible.”
Marble looked comfortable on Tuesday, playing alongside Henry in the casual Moneyball Pro-Am summer run, taking a couple of rebounds coast to coast for dunks, and knocking down a handful of jump shots.
Behind closed doors in early Michigan State practices, teammates said the 3-point shooting is real, and that Izzo may have found a gem in the 6-foot-8 power forward. In addition to Marquette transfer Joey Hauser, who is sitting out this season, Marble is joined in the freshman class by more highly rated freshmen in Mark “Rocket” Watts (No. 38 by 247Sports) and Malik Hall (No. 59).
“I don’t think many people know about him, but he’s going to be a nice piece for us,” Henry said of Marble. “Just one of those dudes who is going to keep grinding, keep his head down, just stay on the books as well.”
Marble is like any other freshman, getting used to his first couple of weeks on his own. He said he’s buying his groceries for the first time and was surprised to see Moneyball was a packed-house affair, spending several minutes after the game signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans.
“I was ready to be surprised, so everything has surprised me so far,” Marble said.
He hopes to do some surprising this winter as the less heralded of Izzo’s recruits, getting shut out from all-state honors in Texas, but earning all-district for Dallas Jesuit.
Marble was late into the recruiting picture, as a broken foot ended his junior season early and took him off the AAU circuit that summer.
Michigan State was looking for a big man late in the game, brought Marble to campus for a raucous win against Michigan, and Marble was sold.
“It’s been crazy,” he said. “I didn’t expect all the guys to be so welcoming, but I’m glad they are, and this is what builds championship teams.”
Veterans like Tillman are keeping Marble focused on the things that might keep Izzo off his back, but Marble said he’s still feeling the fury at times.
“He’s exactly how they told me,” Marble said of Izzo. “He’s going to be hard on you as a freshman. He’s going to yell at you every second. But he loves you and he’s going to talk to you after and tell you why.”
The leaders are impressed so far with the player who arrived with little fanfare, but quickly is drawing lofty comparisons.
“It’s going to be a big summer for him, just getting adjusted and things like that,” point guard Cassius Winston said. “But once he gets that done, he’s going to be a good player for us."
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.