Markquis Nowell stood in an empty gym 90 minutes before his collegiate debut and fired shot after shot from the left side of the floor.
His pregame routine before the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s 101-92 overtime thriller Thursday against Southeastern Oklahoma State at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock is not unusual for any player, especially not for a true freshman before his collegiate debut.
A few hours later, the 5-8, 165-pound point guard and Brooklyn, N.Y., native would captivate an arena full of people eager to see the new version of the Trojans (1-0) under first-year Coach Darrell Walker.
He scored 34 points and handed out eight assists in his first college game. His 34 points were the most ever by any Trojan — no matter classification — inside the Jack Stephens Center.
“He was feeling it,” Walker said. “He really put the team on his back when we needed it the most. He’s going to be a special player.”
Nowell hit a running layup with one second remaining to catapult the game into overtime. Nowell scored 12 in UALR’s second-half comeback, and another 14 in overtime to seal the victory. Three of those OT points were from the same left side of the floor where shots flew before the game.
“It’s great,” Nowell said. “It’s a blessing.”
So, who is Nowell? He isn’t the tallest guy in any gym, and his 5-8 frame was one of his only detriments in recruiting, which helped Walker land Nowell as one of his six newbies for UALR.
Nowell was rated a composite three-star player by 247sports.com. He had at least nine other offers, including from Georgetown, Seton Hall, Minnesota and Fordham in New York, per Nowell’s recruiting profile on Rivals.com.
He scored 19.9 points per game as a junior at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn, then averaged 10.9 ppg during his senior season at The Patrick School in Hillside, N.J.
“Markquis may be 5-8, but he can flat out distribute the ball as well as score,” Walker said via a news release in May. “Again, he was recruited by a lot of big name universities, and he is really something special to see at 5-8. He can shoot it from deep, he can handle the ball, he’s quick and he’s a floor general.”
Months after signing his letter of intent with the Trojans in May, Nowell introduced himself as one of the faces of UALR’s rebuild.
“You get anxiety playing with new guys, new teammates, new coach,” Nowell said.
“We all say it’s the start of a new era, so we want to get winning back on the board. Coach is great. My teammates are great. I’m pretty much loving it here.”
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