Don’t call it a comeback; Marlon Beck II has been doing this — working maniacally to improve his game and prove doubters wrong — for years.
One year ago, Beck was a star in the making as a freshman suiting up for Binghamton University, a shifty, pace changing point guard who fearlessly attacked the hoop and knocked down 3-pointers from anywhere inside of half court while averaging 10.2 points per game and 3.2 assists. A few weeks ago, Beck was a bust in the eyes of many outside the Binghamton program.
But to his Bearcats teammates and coaches, the 5’11” 175 pound point guard (and that listing is quite generous) has never faltered as a huge presence in the locker room and a beacon helping to guide Binghamton out of one of the darkest times in program history.
“He developed high character and discipline, great qualities. He is a confident kid and although he wasn’t playing [great] basketball earlier in the year, he never lost it,” says Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey.
As far back as he can remember, Beck, a Bowie, Maryland native has dreamt of playing Division I college basketball. And ever since he can remember, people have told him that he was “too small” to make those dreams a reality.
Those doubts have always fueled him to work harder than anyone else on the floor.
“I really had to make it,” Beck says, recalling his journey to Binghamton. “I didn’t get many college looks, I was still very young in high school so I decided to transfer to a school that was interested.”
Growing up as the son of two retired Army officers, Marlon Beck and Yvonne Prettyman-Beck, working hard to overcome obstacles has never been a foreign concept to the pint-sized point guard.
“The biggest thing about him is that he has parents who are two retired Colonel’s in the Army,” Dempsey says.
Beck spent his first two years of high school at Our Lady of Good Counsel, a private, Catholic, college-preparatory school in Olney, Maryland, before transferring to the Maret School, a prestigious co-educational, independent school in Washington, D.C., where he reclassified and was a three-year letter winner.
“Best years of my life,” Beck says, reflecting on his years at Maret. “The coaches really took me under the ring, told me what it took to succeed and were always tough on me.”
In his senior year, Beck helped Maret win a regular-season and postseason conference crowns and earn top-10 ranking in D.C.
Still, the Division I offers weren’t materializing.
“A few Ivy League schools were looking at me like Cornell and Princeton,” Beck says.
Beck was very interested in playing for Cornell, but after the Big Red signed several other guards, he didn’t see much opportunity to ever see the floor for Cornell.
“The communication lacked, so I backed away,” he says, adding “I had to open my options.”
Not many schools came calling after he opened back up his recruiting, but then his phone rang and on the other end was Dempsey, looking to build his first real recruiting class at Binghamton.
“They thought I was committed to Cornell when I got the call from Tommy,” Beck says. “They had signed a point guard already (Yosef Yacob), but he liked the idea of building a two-headed monster at the guard position. It was one of the most special moments in my life.”
Beck set foot on campus in Vestal, New York, a man possessed, intent on proving wrong all the schools passed on him. Three games into his college career, he did just that, exploding for a career-high 27 points at Cornell on Nov. 13 2013, drilling 9-of-15 shots and 6-of-9 from long range.
“That was special for me,” Beck says of his chance to show the Big Red what they had missed out on.
According to Dempsey, Beck played with confidence for the rest of the season, averaging 9.2 points, 2.9 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game for the year. But at the America East awards banquet, Beck hear his name called for conference awards or acknowledgements, something that irked him, but something that he turned to for motivation over his first off season.
Sophomore year proved to be a struggle for Beck, who saw his scoring drop to 8.2 points per game, and the young Bearcats, who were expected to make a leap out of the America East Conference basement, only to see their roster decimated by injuries, along with the departure of preseason First Team All-Conference pick Jordan Reed. According to Dempsey, as the team’s emotional epicenter and leader, Beck took the struggles particularly hard, and it affected his game during the early going.
“As a team we struggled,” Dempsey says. “What was hard for Marlon was that there was so much pressure put on him. In a lot of ways it was because the freshmen weren’t ready and we got into a tough place. He was losing confidence and it was more of the team struggling.”
Beck rediscovered his confidence and swagger in America East playing, hitting double-digits in scoring in eight conference games, including a stretch of six straight, and erupted for 20 points, on 8-of-12 shooting to go with four assists in a 76-69 victory against UMBC, to grab the sixth-seed in the America East Playoffs. Beck was equally big in 57-55 shocker over second-place Vermont on Feb. 18, drilling a deep 3-pointer from virtually the Bearcats logo at half court in the game’s deciding moments.
“If I’m not giving it my all I’ll let myself down,” Beck says. “If I’m not giving 100 percent they won’t give them their all. I need my teammates to get on me if I’m not.”
And despite a 6-25 overall record and 5-11 mark in conference play, and a first round road matchup against heavily favored Stony Brook in the first round of the playoffs, Beck isn’t about to start looking ahead towards next season.
“I think our team is strong and we know we have to work for it,” Beck says of Binghamton’s ability to pull off an upset. “I want to finish this season on a high note and make a run. Momentum is key in everything.”