MADISON, Wis. The next standout high school basketball player that enters his college program expecting to ride the bench likely will be the first.
Of course, even the most talented prep players sometimes have to wait their turn because only so many minutes are available behind a team's veterans. Wisconsin freshman point guard George Marshall understood this concept as well as anyone.
It didn't take long for Marshall to recognize that almost every minute of game action this season from the Badgers' point guard position would belong to Jordan Taylor, who happened to be a preseason All-American. With that realization in mind, Marshall quickly made the difficult decision to use a redshirt season, essentially rendering him a practice player in 2011-12.
What Marshall made sure not to do was give up on the season despite his redshirt status.
"George understood as quickly as any other redshirt freshman that we've had of how important this year was for him," Badgers assistant coach Greg Gard said. "This wasn't a year of taking a break. This was a year to get better. I think he maximized his opportunity to use Jordan as a teacher as well as possible."
With his redshirt season now nearing a close, Marshall said he had grown considerably as a player in less than five months. After all, he considers himself to have the best apprenticeship in college basketball under Taylor.
"He's helped me a lot," Marshall said. "Just a lot of advice here and there. He'll pull me to the side all the time and give me different pointers about when I'll be actually able to play. Just off the court and on, I try to study what he does. How he reads different things. How he carries himself. I just try to pick his brain."
Marshall came to Wisconsin as a tough-nosed kid from Chicago, where he earned second-team all-state honors by the Associated Press as a senior at Chicago Brooks College Prep. He averaged 17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game and led his team to the Chicago Public League championship.
He admitted that he never considered the prospect of redshirting while being recruited. But with Taylor -- who averages 36 minutes per game -- running the show this season, Marshall sought advice from teammates Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren, both of whom redshirted as freshman and now are starters.
"They definitely thought it was the best decision for them knowing they had another year under their belt," Marshall said. "I think that was definitely taken into consideration. Just to get some reassurance about the whole process and how it helped them."
The decision appears to have been the right one for Marshall, who serves as the scout team point guard in practice. Marshall is known to show his feistiness during practice, matching up with Taylor on a regular basis.
"I can definitely be a pest defensively with my quickness and things like that," Marshall said.
Taylor, who leads Wisconsin in points per game (14.6) and assists (4.1), has taken notice of Marshall's considerable skills during their head-to-head battles and isn't shy about heaping praise on his fellow teammate.
"I think the sky is the limit for him," Taylor said. "You probably won't even remember I was here by the time George gets done. Or maybe even Devin (Harris), too. You never know. George is good. He's got a lot of talent. For him, he just has to keep working hard and keep plugging away and he'll be more than fine."
Offensively, the 5-foot-11 Marshall is quick enough to create his own shot in the lane, and he has an excellent mid-range game and consistent 3-point shot. He also has used this season to bulk up in the weight room. He said he had gained nine pounds and now weighs 187 pounds.
Marshall said serving as the scout team point guard has given him the confidence necessary to lead at the college level. He is hoping that next season he earns an opportunity to lead as a primary player, helping to fill the void left behind by Taylor.
If he has learned as much from Taylor as others believe, Marshall should be more than ready to perform at a high level come October.
"The greatest teacher for him is going toe-to-toe with Jordan every day," Gard said. "He's bought into that. He's embraced that. He hasn't backed down. Hopefully he's soaked all that in. I think he has."
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