Boise State’s Marks seeks to continue evolution

Boise State sophomore guard Derrick Marks leads the Broncos in scoring. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman)

Derrick Marks goes for the dunk last season in Las Vegas against New Orleans. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman)

As Boise State’s men’s basketball team separates to all corners of the country for the rest of the summer after a final practice Tuesday (read my story on the Broncos’ summer and their high hopes here), check out a few odds and ends from coach Leon Rice and junior guard Derrick Marks from my meeting with them:

Marks has spent most of this summer trying to expand his game, namely enhancing the flashes he showed as a do-it-all point guard.

“Our veterans got some time working on some new things — Derrick on some more point guard stuff,” Rice said. “He made a really good jump in some of that stuff, and he’s starting to look like the Derrick we know, just a more mature version.”

Marks averaged 16.3 points and 3.8 assists per game last season. In his last three February games, he had more assists (24) than points (22), and though the Broncos went 3-0 in those contests, he hopes to find a balance between that sort of selflessness and even further improvement as a scorer.

“I’m working on being the floor general, making the right decision every time,” Marks said. “I know sometimes it won’t work where I can just come out and pass, there are going to be a lot of times where I’ll look to score, then if it isn’t there, make the best pass I can.”

Marks is aiming for more consistency in 2013-14 — though he had three 30-point games during last season, there were also games like March 5 at UNLV (four points, seven turnovers) and March 14 in the Mountain West tournament (4-of-22 shooting). And while his deft scoring in the second half (11.2 ppg) has been welcome, he hopes to have two strings halves. Marks, who had 122 assists and 106 turnovers last season, will again be a focal point, but he’s embracing the facilitator role.

“I’m trying to get the least amount of turnovers and the most assists possible,” said Marks, who had 63 assists and 69 turnovers as a freshman. “I’m not worried about points or assists, as long as I can do things to help us win.”

Two newcomers have been able to get their first work in this summer with the Broncos: sophomore forward James Webb III, a transfer from North Idaho College, and freshman guard Dez Trent, out of Tacoma, Wash.
Webb (6-foot-8, 185) immediately stands out as an athletic presence, but is one that is a bit raw and will be seeking to fill out his frame while not losing his quickness.

“He’s interesting because he gives us something we don’t have,” Rice said. “It’s going to be a slow, steady curve of development. He’s making plays now he didn’t six months ago, and hopefully that just continues as he gets stronger and accustomed to this level.”

Trent (6-2, 201) is a strong, well-built guard who uses his strength and size to get to the basket.

“I like Dez’s ability to score — he’s a shot maker,” Rice said. “He’s going to be really comfortable in our system. We made him step outside his comfort zone, worked a lot on his ball handling, that will help him down the road a lot.”

Consider Trent’s size, his role and his quiet demeanor, it’s hard not to draw comparisons to Marks, who is an inch taller and five pounds heavier. Marks has evolved over his first two seasons into a more complete player, and also into a more talkative presence.

“He’s going to be special,” Marks said.

Incoming freshman Nick Duncan led Australia to a fourth-place finish at the FIBA U19 world championships this past weekend, averaging 9.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. At the World University Games in Russia, junior guard Igor Hadziomerovic has helped lead Australia to a 2-1 mark, after a loss Wednesday against Canada. Australia’s game Thursday against the United States is live on ESPN3 at 8:30 a.m. MST, and will be re-aired at 5 p.m. on ESPNU.

Hadziomerovic has battled a foot injury his first two seasons with the Broncos. He started 26 of 29 games last season, and Rice has pegged him as someone he expects to take a big step this upcoming season.

“This is big for him,” Rice said. “When he gets back, we’ll give him some rest, because he’s been playing a lot of ball this summer, but it’s really going to help him facing that sort of competition.”

Speaking of Aussies, leading scorer Anthony Drmic (17.7 ppg) has spent most of the summer back home, not playing on any national teams, but instead focusing on getting stronger. Drmic took a big step last season in becoming a more rounded scoring threat, improving his ability to get to the basket, especially as the season progressed. He made 105 2-point baskets last season, nearly double the 54 he had as a freshman.

“He spent the offseason really concentrating on getting stronger,” Rice said of Drmic, who has logged 1,915 minutes in his career. “Those first two years, he was rode hard and put away wet … as a freshman, he came in right after the world championships, and played a lot of minutes, then he played even more last season. It’s been good for him to get away from games, get strength in his ankle.”

Boise State had hoped to make a trip to Australia for a few exhibition games this summer, but losing an assistant and director of basketball operations made the trip not possible this year, though Rice said he’s hopeful the team can take it next year before Drmic and Hadziomerovic are seniors.

Rice said the Broncos’ nonconference schedule is nearly done, as only a few games are yet to be finalized, with neutral court/exempt games a possibility and still being worked out. Utah, Seattle, Texas Arlington and Portland State will visit Taco Bell Arena, in addition to known road games at Kentucky and New Orleans, along with December’s Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii.

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