IOWA CITY, Iowa – An already tough week for Iowa Hawkeye fans became tougher on Friday with news that Roy Marble Sr., had lost his battle with cancer.
He was just 48 years old. Another great Hawkeye gone way too soon.
Marble’s death came just three days after former Iowa defensive back Tyler Sash died on Tuesday from a cause that still hasn’t been determined.
Unlike Sash’s situation, we’ve had time to prepare for Marble’s death, but that still doesn’t make it any easier.
Marble sort of got reacquainted with the Iowa basketball program through his son, Devyn Marble., who played for the Hawkeyes from 2010-14. If there is any positive to take from Roy’s death, it’s that he lived long enough to see Devyn develop into a first-team all-Big Ten guard at Iowa.
Roy lived long enough to see Devyn grow from being a teenager to a young man. He also saw Devyn get selected by the Orlando Magic in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft.
And Roy felt the warm embrace from Iowa fans, often while sitting courtside at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where he used to provide thrills with his acrobatic playing style.
UI officials paid their respects to Marble by honoring him during halftime of last season’s regular-season finale against Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa’s all-time leading scorer was presented with his No. 23 jersey in a frame.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when the ceremony ended.
It was obvious to everybody in the arena that Marble’s body was being ravaged by cancer. The same person who used to soar above the rim as a Hawkeye in the late 1980s struggled just to walk last March.
Roy Marble was part of the enormous talent that came to Iowa when George Raveling coached the Hawkeyes from 1983-86. Raveling was a master recruiter and that’s what it took to lure Marble away from the schools in his home state of Michigan.
An athletic 6-foot-5 small forward, Marble had his pick of schools, but still picked Iowa.
He was part of a 1985 recruiting class that also featured point guard and fellow Michigan native B.J. Armstrong and power forward Ed Horton, who was from Springfield, Ill.
B.J., Roy and Ed became a triumvirate that was matched by few in school history. They never won a Big Ten title, but they played in four consecutive NCAA Tournaments and helped Iowa win a school-record 30 games as sophomores during the 1986-87 season.
Marble also ended his career with 2,116 points, which still ranks first in school history.
He could’ve transferred from Iowa after Raveling resigned to take the head coaching job at Southern California in 1986. Marble still had three seasons of eligibility remaining, but he honored his commitment to Iowa after meeting new head coach Tom Davis.
Marble and Davis both made each other better because Roy’s athleticism fit perfectly in Davis’ up tempo system. You could argue that Davis replacing Raveling was the best thing to happen to Marble because Davis allowed him to excel in the open court.
Former Hawkeye Wade Lookingbill paid his respects to Marble on Twitter by calling him the toughest and most athletic guy he ever saw.
Tough and athletic are two words that often were used to describe Marble. He feared nobody, but he also played with grace and elegance, and above the rim.
Unlike his son Devyn, Roy wasn’t blessed with a reliable jump shot, but he compensated by attacking the basket. I still can picture many of his rim-rattling dunks even though they happened almost 30 years ago.
Roy wasn’t perfect off the court, either.
He only played briefly in the NBA despite being a first-round pick of the Atlanta Hawks in 1989. He was suspended by league officials during his rookie season in 1990 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
That caused his NBA career to unravel.
Marble also pleaded guilty to drunken driving at least twice and to driving while barred.
But we all can change, and Marble was in the process of doing that when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. He spent the rest of his time with family and friends, cherishing every moment he had left.
I wasn’t there to witness it first hand, but I assume that Marble faced cancer, and the fears that come with it, with the same toughness and determination that he showed on the basketball court.
Roy Marble was taken from us much too soon, but he leaves behind memories that will last forever, many of which occurred above the rim.