Marbury in transition game ACC debut: Georgia Tech freshman sensation, who will face Maryland tonight, is fine-tuning his play for college.

January 03, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Stephon Marbury communicated through body language at Lincoln High in Brooklyn, N.Y., last year. If the language was basic; the results were spectacular.

"When I pulled up my shorts," he was saying yesterday, "that meant 'I'm going to go to the basket.' "

It didn't matter whether the other team caught on or not; Marbury was unstoppable. His mannerisms may have represented the finest oratory in scholastic basketball.

He averaged 28.0 points and 9.5 assists, and was the national prep player of the year for a team that won the New York City championship.

Before Marbury ever played a game for Georgia Tech, the Sporting News ranked him the eighth-best college point guard in the country.

Tonight when Maryland and Georgia Tech open the regular season at the Omni, Marbury will break new ground with his Atlantic Coast Conference debut.

Just don't read too deeply into the mannerisms. It's a more sophisticated, more refined language that the ACC's most TC celebrated freshman will speak this season.

"Stephon has had some excellent games," Yellow Jackets coach Bobby Cremins said. "[But] he's in what I call a transition period. He's learning a lot about himself and the team.

"Overall right now, I'd give Stephon a good solid 'C.' And I think he'd give himself that."

Marbury is scoring big -- he leads the Jackets with 18.2 points a game -- but feeling his way. He has almost as many turnovers (51) as he has assists (55). A hot West Coast trip raised his field-goal percentage to 43.9 and his three-point percentage to 32.2.

Still, the Jackets are warming slowly to the Marbury era. They're 6-7 with four straight losses. According to Cremins, they're suffering from a loss of confidence and a lack of cohesiveness. They are, perhaps, waiting for Marbury to grow into the job of directing the offense.

"I wouldn't say my game has changed," Marbury said. "It's still about finding people. In high school, I'd average nine, 10 assists a game. I'd average a double double.

"Now in college, you can't feel where the players are going to be. I've only played with them a short amount of time."

Marbury, 18 going on a legend, is already working to become a leader with the Jackets -- as a freshman. He is the latest in Tech's production line of NBA point guards, after Mark Price, Kenny Anderson and Travis Best. Certainly, that is his undeniable future.

For what it's worth, expectations don't bother him.

"People should set high expectations for guys like me, the top freshmen," he said. "We're supposed to be so good, so we should be able to go out and show what we can do."

It sometimes appears that Marbury attempts the flashy move when the mundane is more effective. Twice yesterday, once after Marbury attempted an awkward wraparound pass, Cremins interrupted practice to demonstrate simpler, more efficient passes.

"He needs to continue to work hard on being a pure point guard, because he's [already] a terrific scorer," Cremins said. "He's a better athlete than Travis, Kenny and Mark.

"It's been tough. I want to give him some freedom. At the same time, I've got to show him some other fine points. I had to do the same thing with Mark, Kenny and Travis. I think most coaches do it with most scoring point guards."

Maryland coach Gary Williams sees a special player in Marbury, but he also sees a rookie with overwhelming attention.

"He got so much hype, people expect him to be perfect," Williams said. "He's having a great year for a freshman, but no one's perfect."

Almost certainly, the worst is over. The worst was the Preseason NIT, when Marbury went back to Madison Square Garden in New York to play Georgetown and Allen Iverson. That was when the hype got to Cremins.

"At first the hype was ridiculous," he said. "I felt bad for other players because it was out of hand, particularly when we went to New York. Everything was Stephon. Everything.

"I was counting on the other players to laugh at it and handle it. At times, even I got annoyed with it. I was allowing Stephon to do certain things with the press, but it was getting to the point where I was going to eliminate it."

In the face of all the attention, Marbury remains undeterred.

"Now I just want to win," he said. "I'm not worrying about expectations for myself. I'm worrying about expectations for my teammates. We're not doing well. I want to go to the NCAAs. I think we can be a Cinderella team if we have the opportunity."

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