The numbers on Kendall Marshall’s potentially record-setting assists

All-time records may seem like a silly discussion topic after someone’s freshman year, but nevertheless, Kendall Marshall’s numbers were just that good, begging the question: is he heir to the NCAA all-time assist record? First, he would have to stay four years, so let’s assume for the sake of this post that he does.

Marshall finished his freshman season with 230 assists, a 6.2 per game average to lead the ACC. Simply repeating this season’s performance three more times would place him 12th all-time in the NCAA, after spending half of this season playing only half or less of the game. In making a run at the NCAA assist record, he is competing against three guys who eclipsed the 1,000 assist mark; to keep himself in the running he has to make a serious dent each year, and it cannot be understated how impressive it was to do this in his limited minutes early.

There are a couple of ways to extrapolate Marshall’s performance into a four year estimate. In the sixteen games following the departure of Larry Drew, when Marshall finally received full starter’s minutes, he averaged an absurd 8.5 assists per game. Bobby Hurley, the Dookie he is chasing for the record, recorded 1,076 assists in 140 games for a pedestrian (only when compared to Marshall, of course) 7.7 per game. If Marshall were to maintain this pace for three years and average 35 games per season (as Hurley did), he would shatter Hurley’s total with 1,122 assists.

Whether Marshall can maintain this pace over the course of three years is what makes the remainder of his career so intriguing. On the one hand, 8.5 assists per game is an impossibly high number for a 40 minute college game. On the other, Marshall seems to tally ridiculous assist totals even during games in which he and our offense struggle, and 8.5 per game in his increased minutes is actually a little under his expected average of 8.75 based on his season-long per 40 minute average.

His playing time might be the greatest obstacle. During this stretch of sixteen games Marshall averaged nearly 35 minutes per game in the absence of a backup point guard. There is a problem with that stat: in his three seasons as Roy Williams starting point guard, Ty Lawson averaged 25, 25, and 29 minutes per game. For the rest of Marshall’s career at Carolina he will have a viable backup, which means his minutes will almost certainly take a huge hit.

Marshall averaged 10 assists per forty minutes this season. If he plays 29 minutes per game, 35 games per season for three more years, and averages 10 assists per 40 minutes, his career assist total rests at 991, good for fourth all time. Only 32 minutes per game, leading to an 8 per game average, would break the record. Of course, a trip to the Final Four will typically yield Carolina between 37 and 39 games; this year’s Elite Eight finish coupled with a run to the ACC tournament final yielded 37. If Carolina maintains its consistent habit under Roy of playing deep into March, Marshall could potentially play 8 to 16 more games than Hurley, games in which his minutes would drift upward toward 35 per game. At 10 assists per 40 minutes, he would need 10, an admittedly daunting average of 37.5 games per season.

What is clear: that Kendall Marshall has the capability not only to surpass the three point guards who would remain ahead of him (Hurley, N.C. State’s Chris Corchiani with 1,038, and UNC’s Ed Cota with 1,030), but to shatter their totals and per game averages. Whether he will receive the minutes to do so remains to be seen.

  1. November 10th, 2011

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