IOWA CITY, Iowa - Roy Marble was nothing like Luka Garza on the basketball court. A 6-foot 6-inch guard, Marble had tremendous quickness and jumping ability. He used those God-given skills to become Iowa’s career scoring leader with 2,116 points in the late 1980s. “Roy was an in-betweener,” said Tom Davis, who coached Marble for his final three seasons at Iowa. “He played guard but he was also a forward. He could take it to the basket with the best of them.”
Garza, a 6-11 center, is more of a man-made star, with tremendous footwork and skills perfected from countless hours in the gym and a blue-chip work ethic.
These contrasting styles scored more points than any two players in Iowa basketball history. And with 14 points against Penn State Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Garza will break Marble’s scoring record.
“It’s a great tribute to Roy, I think, the kind of person who will break his record,” Davis said. The difference between the two players, physically, is unmistakable. But Davis sees a lot of Marble in Garza.
“The thing that’s surprised me is how unselfish both of them are,” said Davis, the winningest coach in Iowa history. “Roy was really unselfish. It was never a problem for him to get the ball to the open man whenever he could. Now he could do a lot with it on his own. But he was always aware of his teammates and getting it to where it was supposed to go. But he wasn’t always about him.”
Davis praised Marble’s family and his coaches in the early years for instilling a team-first philosophy in a player who could have had a me-first career.
“He developed the right values for how to play the game,” Davis said. “He was easy for me to coach, that’s for sure, because he was there for whatever was best for the team at all times. I think Garza has that same mentality. They ask him to do more because he’s so overpowering
on the inside. Certainly, he’s a different kind of player. But he’s the ultimate team player. The kid has just improved so much.”
Like Marble, Davis thinks Garza’s early days put him in a position to thrive later on. “It’s a real tribute, much like Roy, to his training and to his current coaching, certainly,” Davis said. “But the coaching he got from his dad, his family and other coaches that worked with him along the way helped developed those values in him, much like Roy had developed by the time he got to Iowa.It’s one of the toughest habits to break as a coach, if a player doesn’t have those values.”
Davis sees another similarity. Both players had success in a deep and talented conference. “This year in the Big Ten, the league is so strong,” Davis said. “There are so many good teams, and good athletes, and well-coached teams. In Roy’s period, it was very similar to that. It was hard to pick the top five or six teams in the league from year to year, because there were so many good players and teams in that period as well.”
Marble, who started as a freshman at Beecher High School in Flint, Mich, was a Top 25 recruit nationally as a senior. He was recruited to Iowa by George Raveling, his coach as a freshman in 1985-86.
Marble’s career got off to an inauspicious start. He failed to score a point in the first two games of the season. But he scored 29 and 28 points in the next two games. In the seventh game of his college career, Iowa faced Lehigh in the consolation game of the Amana-Hawkeye Classic. The opposing coach was 26-year-old Fran McCaffery, in his sixth game as a Division I head
coach. Marble scored nine points in that game, and the two men would connect again many decades later.
Marble went on to lead Iowa in scoring as a freshman at 12.5 points a game. Raveling left for USC, and Iowa hired Davis away from Stanford. Marble contemplated transferring, but his father, Roy., Sr., told him that Davis played a fast-breaking, up-tempo style that would fit him perfectly. And it did.
Marble passed Greg Stokes (1,768 points) as Iowa’s career scoring leader on Jan. 26, 1989. Needing 11 points, he scored 24 in a 78-70 victory over Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. In vintage Marble form, he got the record on a dunk. Play was stopped shortly after, and Marble was presented a gold basketball trophy by Iowa Athletic Director Bump Elliott. When McCaffery was hired in March of 2010, one of his first jobs was to re-recruit Devyn Marble. Marble, Roy’s son, had signed with Iowa under previous coach Todd Lickliter. Devyn thought of asking to be released from his scholarship and going somewhere else. Detroit was one of his options. But he decided to stay.
Devyn was instrumental in getting McCaffery’s rebuilding project off the ground, and his 1,694 points rank seventh in Iowa history.
“When I first got here, he (Roy) was one of the first people I reached out to on a number different levels,” McCaffery said. “He was Iowa’s all-time leading scorer. He lived in town. We were re-recruiting his son. And I think in the process, and then coaching his son, we got to be really friendly. The one thing that always stuck out with me with Roy was he was a Hawk. He loved this place. He loved his experience here. He loved coming to the games. It was clearly a lot of fun for him when Dev was playing. That meant so much to him.”
McCaffery was there for Marble when Roy was diagnosed with cancer in August of 2014. He passed away on Sept. 11, 2015, at 48 years of age.
“He would have appreciated Luka Garza in a number of ways,” McCaffery said. “They would have gotten to know each other and he would have loved the kid as a person and his character but then his work ethic and tenacity and consistency. I think he really would have been a champion for Luka and watching him grow and develop and fighting through adversity like he did his sophomore year, and he would have loved him and supported him. I wish he was here to see it.”