The most highly regarded high school recruit in MAC conference history (ranked in the top-40 by both Scout and Rivals.com), Zeke Marshall
has mostly struggled to live up to the expectations he created early on in his career thus far.
Having elected to attend Akron mostly on the strength of their computer information systems department, Marshall played two somewhat inconspicuous seasons thus far, but showed signs indicating he could be on the verge of a breakout junior campaign.
His team went just 9-7 in the MAC last year, but managed to steal the automatic NCAA bid by winning 4 conference tournament games in 5 days, with Marshall being named the MVP after posting 9 points, 9 blocks and 13 rebounds in the final.
The main intrigue surrounding Marshall continue to revolve around his phenomenal physical tools and shot-blocking instincts, standing around 7-feet with an incredible 7-5 wingspan. His frame remains very narrow, particularly in the lower body, but he's a very good athlete for his size, running the court well when motivated and getting off the floor with ease.
Neither a prolific or efficient scorer at the mid-major level, it's difficult to see Marshall ever emerging as anything more than a complimentary player at best on the offensive end of the floor. Akron tries to post him up quite a bit against the slew of undersized big men he faces in the MAC, but rarely sees much success in doing so.
Marshall struggles to establish deep post position due to his poor lower body strength, and doesn't appear to possess the toughness or desire to assert himself in the paint, typically avoiding contact at all costs. Not a particularly fluid player, he shows little in the ways of footwork or post moves, usually preferring to settle for very low percentage hook shots from 12-15 feet.
Thanks to his good hands, long arms and quick bounce, Marshall is a very good finisher when his guards are able to create easy scoring opportunities around the basket. He gets to the free throw line at an average rate (5.1 times per-40 minutes pace adjusted), but converts just 58% of his attempts once there.
Facing the basket, Marshall is somewhat of a mixed bag. He made just 5 of the 22 jumpers (23%) he attempted last season according to Synergy Sports Technology, but shows decent mechanics that indicate he could (and will likely need to) develop this part of his game down the road.
Defensively, Marshall has both extreme strengths and weaknesses. His terrific combination of size, length, timing and mobility make him one of the best shot-blockers in all of college basketball, ranking third
amongst all prospects in that category last year.
On the other hand, Marshall also ranks as one of the worst
defensive rebounders amongst center prospects, pulling down a mediocre 5.5 per-40 minutes pace adjusted. His lack of strength and aversion to contact is very evident in this area, as he's regularly backed down and pushed out of position and doesn't show much interest in fighting back.
He's also very foul prone, committing 5.9 fouls per-40 minutes pace adjusted, one of the reasons he played just 22 minutes per game last year.
When forced to step outside of the paint, Marshall is mostly a liability. He has a difficult time bending his knees and getting into a real defensive stance, struggling to move laterally and stay in front of anyone. He's not a terribly coordinated athlete at this stage, as it often looks like the game is moving very fast for him.
Marshall is a late bloomer who is just starting to tap into his upside as a basketball player. People around him describe him in various ways. A "different kid", my 7-foot computer nerd", he doesn't have a mean bone in his body," are some of the things his coach has been quoted saying about him.
Watching him on the court, it at times appears that he'd rather be somewhere else, as he gets down on himself very easily, and appears to struggle with self-confidence issues. There are major question marks about his physical and mental toughness, which he'll have to address if he's to convince scouts that he's serious about playing in the NBA. Thus far, his progress has been somewhat disappointing, as he hasn't shown a great deal of improvement in his skill-level or frame since arriving at Akron.
NBA teams have shown at times that they are willing to be patient with players in his moldsuch as Ryan Hollins
for example. Marshall has two more seasons at Akron to show that he's a project worth investing in, so it will be interesting to see how he responds.