CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Add North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall to the list of great ballhandlers who haven’t made first-team All-ACC -- yet.
The sophomore -- who needs just five more assists to break the league’s single-season record -- was squeezed out of the first-team voting, announced Monday. Teammates Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes all made it (along with Virginia’s Mike Scott and Duke’s Austin Rivers). Marshall finished a mere two points behind Barnes, UNC’s leading scorer.
The results probably didn’t come as a complete surprise to Marshall, a Cousy award finalist who takes pride in making his teammates look good. Asked last week why scoring seems to hold more weight with voters than playmaking, Marshall said: “Naturally, scoring is more entertaining, so it may get noticed more -- and I have no problem with that at all. I would rather let my other teammates get those awards and accolades.”
As long-time ACC reporter Al Featherston pointed out in this story for Duke Basketball Report last week, voters historically tend to forget about pass-first ballhandlers. He wrote:
"UNC’s Ed Cota and N.C. State’s Chris Corchiani – two of the three greatest distributors in ACC history – never made first-team All-ACC. Clemson’s Grayson Marshall, No. 5 on the league’s career assist list, never even made second team (even though he led Clemson to an unprecedented second-place regular season finish in 1987). Even Bobby Hurley, the NCAA’s career assist leader, didn’t make first team until his senior season, when he upped his scoring average of 17.0 a game."
Asked about that trend, Marshall said he had recently learned that Cota -- who he grew up watching, and whose UNC single-season assist record he recently broke -- hadn’t made first team, and he was surprised.
“He’s considered one of the greatest point guards to ever come through here,’’ Marshall said. “It’s a little ironic, but when it comes to media, your job is to pick the best five players, scorers, whatever way you want to look at it for that award. I can’t really fault anybody for the way they vote, the way they pick, they all have their own opinions.”
UNC coach Roy Williams said Monday, before the teams were announced, that he appreciated having such a great playmaker on his team.
“I like all my point guards to score, but I’ve never felt as comfortable with a guy making decisions,’’ Williams said of Marshall, who also recorded two games with 20 or more points in UNC's last four outings. “And I nitpick on him all the time, I pick on him if he makes one bad decision. But he makes better decisions with the basketball than any point guard I’ve ever had.”
Of course, Marshall -- who is averaging 9.6 assists per game, second in the nation -- still has a chance to make the All-ACC first team next season (and the season after that), unless he turns pro early.
And like a true assist man, Marshall applauded his fellow Tar Heels after the awards were announced Monday
Tweeted @kbutter5: "happy for my teammates".
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.