Commentary

Plumlee finding way on the court

Updated: September 23, 2009, 7:12 PM ET
By Christopher Lawlor | ESPN.com

Marshall Plumlee can hardly wait to slip on the Size 44, double-extra-long sport coat. It's considered a family legacy.

[+] EnlargeMarshall Plumlee
Liam Foley/Icon SMIMarshall Plumlee worked hard in the summer so that he'll be ready for an increased role this season.

His two older brothers wore it when they were seniors at Christ School in Arden, N.C., but Plumlee is still a year from donning the forest green hand-me-down jacket with the school crest stitched on the breast pocket.

Wearing the school blazer is a time-honored senior tradition at the Episcopal church-based boarding school near Asheville.

If a 40-inch sleeve seems long, well, it certainly is. So is Marshall, a 7-foot junior center, and his brothers, 6-9 Miles and 6-11 Mason, who are sophomore and freshman posts, respectively, at Duke University.

"The Plumlee brothers are unique," said Christ School head coach David Gaines. "But Marshall has his own personality; he has several interests away from basketball that makes him one of the most likable students at our school. He relates to many different kids."

Marshall, ranked No. 49 in the ESPNU 60, wears many hats.

"Marshall has done it all," Mason, a McDonald's All-American last season, said of his younger brother. "He's not afraid of trying different things and or standing out in a crowd because of his height. No, he has his own style. That's for sure."

Marshall seeks the extraordinary rather than settling for the mundane.

To wit, imagine him at the net playing doubles for the school's junior varsity tennis team this past spring. Try slipping one past that wingspan. Not many did; he didn't lose in 15 matches.

"I'm pretty much looking to smash it [the ball]," Marshall said.

He also dabbles in kayaking, acting, film editing, whitewater rafting, marine biology and sumo wrestling.

Sumo wrestling?

"Yeah, it was part of this outdoor festival in North Carolina. They asked everyone to suit up in traditional Japanese outfit [mawashi] and compete for fun," he explained. "I must have outquicked the others."

Much to his surprise, Marshall defeated a college student to win a $3,000 kayak, which he donated to the school's outdoors club.

"That's Marshall for you," Gaines said. "He's a friend to so many."

He recently visited Charleston, S.C., where he boarded a shrimp boat with the marine biology class.

"It's amazing what you haul from the ocean," he said. "Each net has so many different species of sea creatures."

My Indiana home

Marshall Plumlee grew up in Winona Lake, Ind., 45 minutes west of Fort Wayne. When his brothers transferred from Warsaw High to Christ School in the fall of 2006, Marshall was a grade-schooler.

[+] EnlargeMiles Plumlee
Peyton WilliamsMiles Plumlee will play with his brother Mason at Duke this season.

As a toddler, Marshall was "congenial," said his father, Perky Plumlee, an attorney and former college basketball player at Tennessee Tech in the 1980s.

His mother, Leslie, played basketball at Purdue. She met Perky when they were summer camp counselors.

"[Marshall] was the smallest of the three [brothers] at birth," Perky said. "He was a happy, not whiny, baby. When it came to athletics, he was happy to be on the team. He liked socializing with the other kids, and I wasn't sure he had the passion to play sports.

"Once Marshall started playing basketball, he was so nice on the court. I'm thinking you need to have more of a killer instinct in a contact sport like basketball."

Once Marshall joined his brothers at Christ School, a 10-hour drive from their northeastern Indiana home, his father noticed a change.

"Maturity," Perky said. "Sometimes you don't realize everything about your offspring, and suddenly they blossom in different ways year to year."

It started on the court when he posted up older, larger players. He played fearlessly, never backing down from a challenge. Marshall's AAU coach with the Indiana Elite One team told Perky that his son was a "battler."

"He became hard-nosed like his brothers," Perky said. "He was adding size and improving his game."

Marshall said, "I played with a lot of quality guys in the summer and worked individually on my game. I want to be versatile like my brothers, able to play at any position on the floor, but I see myself as a post. I have a lot to learn."

Never bored at school

At first, the notion of attending a small, all-male boarding school (enrollment 220) in the Blue Ridge Mountains did not appeal to Marshall Plumlee.

"I was lucky, though," he said. "I had my brothers there watching over my shoulder."

Attending Christ School keeps Marshall busy.

His course work is college preparatory, with AP calculus, chemistry, Latin, physics and English. Marshall maintains a 4.3 grade-point average, good for high honor roll.

Marshall's typical day can feature five classes, extracurricular activities and thrice-weekly chapel services.

"Coming here I learned to buckle down and how to manage my time," he said.

This season, his minutes should increase for the Christ School Greenies, who are three-time North Carolina Independent School Class 3A state champions.

[+] EnlargeMason Plumlee
Ned Dishman/Getty ImagesMason Plumlee was named a 2009 Jordan Brand All-American.

Last season, as a key reserve on the Greenies' state championship squad, he averaged only 3.4 points and 3.7 rebounds with season highs of 10 points and 13 boards. But he was playing behind his brother Mason (now at Duke), Lakeem Jackson (South Carolina) and Dee Giger (Harvard).

This year, Marshall's role will expand much as his game has.

The Greenies, who were 36-2 last season and finished No. 15 in ESPN RISE's final rankings, should be one of the nation's premier teams, with the addition of senior Eric Smith (No. 57 point guard), a South Carolina recruit.

Their home court, the 1,000-seat Greenie Dome field house, is a secret weapon. The Greenies are 40-1 in the past three seasons and are urged on by the entire student body painted green, standing throughout the entire game.

"It's like Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium; we think it's a special place and tough place for opponents," Gaines said.

Last month, Marshall received an offer from Duke, where he might reunite with his two brothers for at least one season. He's also considering schools such as Purdue, Notre Dame, Indiana, North Carolina State, Virginia, Florida, Minnesota, Northwestern, LSU and Georgia Tech.

Playing for Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski is enticing.

"I'm not leaning one way or the other, but the prestige of Duke is unparalleled," he said. "I would love playing with my brothers. I have to find a place where I'm comfortable and would stay for four years. I have to feel comfortable to come back after graduating. There's a long grocery list [of potential schools]."

This past summer, playing for Indiana Elite One, he continued to work on his jump shot, so much so that he frequently knocks them down from 17 feet. Marshall's Scouts Inc. evaluation reveals that he possesses a high basketball IQ, a bevy of post moves and more:

"His skill level is coming along fine and he is developing into more of an offensive threat with his back to the basket. He can face up and knock it down from 15-17 feet and is a good passer from the perimeter. Loves to impact the game with his rebounding and defensive ability, with two years to develop at the high school level, has a chance to be the best Plumlee yet."

Although Marshall is 200 pounds, Mason describes his "little" brother as "still thin as a stick."

He adds, "Marshall's confidence level is getting better. He worked hard this summer and is consistently making the 15-footer. He might be more comfortable under the basket and has become more active on defense."

Marshall's success might be summed into two tenets: "Stay humble and work hard."

Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball, and boys' and girls' basketball. He also worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, for which he ran the Gatorade National Player of the Year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.

Christopher Lawlor

High School Basketball
Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA TODAY, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball and boys and girls basketball. He also ran the Gatorade national player of the year program for nine years.