Marcus-less Tops to forge on

Danny Schoenbaechler

Size helps in basketball.

And Chris Marcus has loads of it.

As the NBA Draft draws closer, he will always have that advantage.

The 7-foot-1 center appears to carry much more than his listed 285 pounds. But that is the type of enormous frame that leaves NBA teams drooling.

However, the drool may have dried off the scouts1 chins since the last time Marcus was healthy.

“It’s so sad when you see a kid like Marcus that has so much potential as a player fall to an injury,” ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said. “He has size and so many skills, but has been hampered by that injury.”

Marcus arrived on the Hill as a partial qualifier and sat out the 1998-99 season. The next year, he exploded onto the scene as the Sun Belt Conference’s Newcomer of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, while earning first team All-Conference honors.

By the end of his sophomore campaign Marcus was receiving national recognition that was unprecedented at Western. His 12.1 rebounds a game led the nation, and his 16.7 points per contest helped him be named as an Associated Press All-American.

As the Hilltoppers season ended with a first-round NCAA tournament loss to Florida that year, so did the Chris Marcus show. He injured his foot the following November and played just five games before going under the knife for the first time.

With Marcus’ collegiate career officially over he is now concentrating on making it to the NBA. He is living in Charlotte, N.C., resting his foot and readying for the NBA1s two pre-draft invitationals later this year.

“He hasn’t really been seen in a year,” said Ryan Blake, the NBA’s assistant director of scouting. “You’re looking at a guy with a lot of questions.”

However, Blake said he in confident that Marcus will get his shot at the league either through the draft or as a free agent.

“A team will ask him to show up. He1s a big body and we are a league that needs big bodies especially with an upside like that,” Blake said.

Besides Marcus, the Toppers also lost 6-9 forward Todor Pandov for the season.

“I really can1t think of a team that lost their two top guys that early in the season,” Vitale said.

The Toppers will return to action tonight against Arkansas-Little Rock. Western holds a slim half-game lead over Middle Tennessee State for the lead in the Sun Belt1s Eastern division.

“I’m going to be looking for continued improvement and to continue to play at a high level,” Felton said.

Sophomore guard Patrick Sparks said the Toppers will be prepared for the Trojans.

“We know they are a good team and we played pretty well against them last time,” he said. “But we know that we can play a lot better than we did.”

Western (15-8, 7-2 Sun Belt) won the East by at least four games the past two seasons. The Toppers will face MTSU in Diddle Arena for Senior Night on March 1.

“I don’t feel anymore pressure,” Sparks said. “But it is a lot tighter this year, but we’re looking forward to these next few games and finishing strong.”

If the Toppers can beat UALR tonight and Arkansas State on Saturday, they will tie Oklahoma for the nation’s longest home winning streak at 33.

Reach Danny Schoenbaechler at [email protected]