Opportunities at Air Force Academy lead prized recruit away from basketball
By BRENT BRIGGEMAN | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Published: June 29, 2019
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Tribune News Service) — Evan Marshall walked through the bus door Thursday, one of 1,147 to be whisked away to basic training at the Air Force Academy.
Time will tell if the 6-foot-6 former prized basketball recruit with strong hoops bloodlines closes the door on the sport that first brought him here.
"Obviously no doors should be closed," Marshall said just before entering the academy during in-processing. "You should always have options available, but it's something I don't plan on pursuing at this point."
This was no rash decision. His mother made sure of that.
While spending last year at the prep school, Marshall said his eyes were opened to the possibilities available to him at Air Force. He has aspirations of becoming a doctor. The law intrigues him as well. He worked his way to squadron leader. He wants to continue to those explore those paths and others that might present themselves, and he's not sure playing basketball would afford him the time to do so.
All of this came as a surprise to the Air Force coaching staff, which was excited about a wing scorer with a sweet left-handed shot. It also surprised his parents. His father, Archie, played at Kansas on a Final Four team in 1986 and won a national title in 1988 while rooming with eventual No. 1 NBA draft pick Danny Manning. His mother, Terri, played guard at Florida from 1983-87 and served as a team captain as a senior.
"We had him in the gym too much, I guess," said Archie Marshall, who was there with his wife to see Evan, the younger of the couple's two sons, off to begin his military career.
The Marshalls handed down more than a basketball pedigree. Terri was an SEC Academic Honor Roll honoree during her career with the Gators. Archie left Kansas with a pair of reconstructed knees, but no degree. He completed it years later, when Evan was 5 and fully aware of his father's efforts.
"We don't want to go through life with regrets, so I wanted him to make sure his decision was not emotionally based or not aligned properly," Terri Marshall said. "So, I gave him an exercise to do."
She had Evan write a pros and cons list, exhausting every plus and minus he could find to playing basketball for the Falcons or simply attending the academy as a non-athlete. When that was finished, she had him highlight the 10 items from the list that meant the most to him. Then, she wanted him to note which side – pro or con – the highlighted items came from.
Those reasons were leading him away from the court.
"You can imagine how difficult it was for him to choose not to play, but it was totally his decision," Archie Marshall said. "We, of course, encouraged him to look at everything. But at the end of the day, we gave him the opportunity to make the decision."
Falcons coach Dave Pilipovich said that listening to Evan's reasoning "makes you proud of the kid he is," but doesn't lessen the disappointment in missing out on a player who could impact the team.
The coaches have no choice but to give him space and see if he eventually gravitates back to basketball.
There were plenty of others in this class that have Pilipovich excited in a group that includes eight from the prep school and two direct from high school. Mason Taylor and Nikc Jackson are among the players who could quickly emerge from the group that Pilipovich compares to the senior class that the Falcons return intact after finishing sixth in the Mountain West last season.
"I'm extremely excited," Jackson said. "It was a really fun group at the prep school."
An injury kept Marshall mostly out of games last year at the prep school, but among the few he played included a 28-point effort.
That talent complicated the decision.
"He's leaving behind a special gift," his father said.
But Evan has seen enough already to know there might be something more for him over the next four years.
"It was eye-opening, honestly," he said of his year at the prep school. "Showed me I had potential in other aspects of my life. I was grateful for it and I just took the opportunity to pursue something else."
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