Unlike most of the Binghamton men’s basketball team, Marlon Beck II has been here before.
Heading into the first round of the America East Tournament on Wednesday, Beck is the only veteran in the freshman-dominated starting lineup Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey has fielded the past six weeks. He’s the only one who remembers the disappointment of marching into Albany last February, feeling like the sky was the limit, just to have Hartford deal the Bearcats a season-ending romping in the quarterfinals.
But on the nation’s youngest Division I team, it’s only fitting that the old man on the court is just a sophomore. Still learning himself, Beck has taken the challenge of being a leader in stride: He even delivered the opening statement — a coach’s rite — at a press conference in mid-February.
“I love the situations that all of the coaches have put me into, leading this team and getting on them on and off the court,” Beck said. “I like to just take it all in and think that the progress and the growth of the team that I’ve seen so far, and the potential that we do have going down the road, I like to think that I had a good part in it.”
In conference play, Beck has been more than just a good part of the Bearcats’ success. As is common to all effective floor generals, he’s located the balance between finding shots for others and taking some himself.
“We need Marlon to run the show, and a lot of times, it’s hard to ask the guy to run the show and also hunt his own shots,” Dempsey said. “But I think he knows that we need him to score. He knows that we count on him to take some big ones, he knows that he picks his spots, that if he thinks offensively we’re struggling a little bit, then he knows that he can look for his shot more and try to get us going.”
Not only did he reach double-digits in scoring in 10 of BU’s 16 AE games — including two 20-point outings — Beck posted a dominant 1.67 assist-to-turnover ratio. That was the result of the 5-foot-11 Bowie, Maryland native’s decision to slow down his game so he wouldn’t commit so many turnovers as he did in his debut season, and he’s reaping the rewards of his patience.
But that’s not to say he’s slow: On the contrary, Beck is by far the team’s quickest player. His speed has allowed BU to be a serious threat in transition, where the Bearcats thrive.
But just as impressive as Beck’s speed is his clutch factor. He’s lit a fire under his team with a big 3 to disrupt an opponent’s run through multiple games this season, and that’s not something you can teach.
“I love the big moments,” Beck said. “I live for the big moments — I’ve always been that way. So if we need a 3 or someone to do a drive or kick or some play the coach draws up, I always want to be the one to take the shot, whether it’s for me or not.”
Those plays are infectious, and Beck knows that what he gives to his teammates, they’ll take and magnify to new proportions.
“I’ve kind of got the keys from coach Dempsey to really run the show on offense,” Beck said. “I’ve really felt that when we get things moving and we have great energy, I know when I’m giving 100 percent on the court, my teammates are going to give me 150 percent.”
Beck has seen his development this season mirror the team’s. The sophomore was stripped of his starter role in the early season, as the backcourt duties shifted along a roster searching desperately for its identity. Through the first half of the season, Beck averaged a mere 4.5 points in 22 minutes per game. Struggling to find his own shot, he still served his role, taking far better care of the ball than the hyperactive freshmen and posting a 1.18 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Come conference play, Beck exploded. He’s now averaging 11.5 points per game, which is second on the team. He’s shooting 37.4 percent from beyond the arc on the season, and 36 of his 47 made treys this year have come during the AE slate. Beck saw all his numbers spike in conference play, not the least of which is the point guard’s 2.8 assists per game.
But for all his own growth, Beck just wants to see his team thrive.
“It’s not about me, it’s not about them; it’s about us, really,” Beck said. “I just have to do the best I can so that we can have the best team chemistry on the court while we’re playing, because that’s how we can get the wins. When we’re playing together, we’re getting a lot of assists, or we’re playing with a lot of energy, the bench is giving good energy — including the coaches and the fans — it’s hard to stop us.”