TEMPE, Ariz. — The second week of practice, new Arizona State guard Jermaine Marshall just did not feel right. Logy. Tired. Coughing heavily.
“I just wanted to lay down all the time,” Marshall said recently.
He had valley fever, a diagnosis that stunned Marshall and had his parents in Pennsylvania searching the internet for an explanation.
Although Marshall missed about two weeks, his case appears to have been a mild one, and even operating at what he guessed was about 85 percent health, it was obvious on opening night that Marshall can be an important cog for the Sun Devils after opting to spend his senior season at ASU following a transfer from Penn State.
Marshall was Penn State’s leading scorer at 15.3 points a game last season, a figure that was sixth in the Big Ten, and he had a smooth 19 in ASU’s season-opening 96-61 victory over Maryland-Baltimore County at Wells Fargo Arena on Friday.
It was the Sun Devils’ fifth-highest team scoring total in coach Herb Sendek’s eight seasons, and there were plenty of contributors.
Jahii Carson also had 19 points and five assists, and Jordan Bachynski had his sixth career double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds, adding three blocked shots. Forwards Jonathan GiIling (10) and junior college transfer Shaquielle McKissic (11) also scored in double figures.
Malik Garner and Rodney Elliott had 12 points apiece for UMBC (0-1), which was held to 36.1 percent shooting from the floor. The Sun Devils outrebounded the Retrievers 50-35.
Marshall, 6-foot-4, stood out, and it became evident early that he will be a threat both taking the ball to the basket and spotting up on he perimeter. He penetrated. He spotted up. He made three 3-pointers and all six of his free-throw attempts and had four of ASU’s 10 steals.
Like most Easterners, Marshall had never heard of valley fever — a fungal infection more common in this part of the country — until he was diagnosed. Doctors told him some patients have to cease activity for several months, something he did not want to hear.
The condition stirs up bad memories here. Former Diamondbacks first baseman Conor Jackson lost almost the entire 2009 season because of valley fever and was never the same. After hitting 42 homers in the previous three years, Jackson had only 10 thereafter and retired early last year.
“After they told me, I was kind of scared,” Marshall said. “I never heard of anybody sitting out that long. I never heard anything like this. The doctors told me I was doing better than most, so that was good to here. So hopefully I’ll be back to 100 percent ASAP.”
Marshall did not seem fazed in his first game at ASU. His first basket came on a drive in the lane in which he seemed to gain elevation with his last step, finding an easy hoop. He also scored on another strong drive to the basket and added a 3-pointer from the left wing on a McKissic feed to cap an 18-2 run for a 41-22 lead. That burst gave the Sun Devils enough of an edge to withstand a small UMBC rally that cut the deficit to 11 points in the first four minutes of the second half.
“In the first half, I thought his activity on a couple of possessions really was a catalyst for us,” Sendek said. “He shot the ball well. Made his free throws. A good, solid performance from Jermaine. I would still like to think he can reach another level of improved conditioning, but that’s really the only factor that remains from the fever.”
Marshall lost 15 pounds, and he is working with strength coach Rick Wenner to put that back on.
“I’m not quite where I want to be,” he said. “My wind is not where I want it to be. I was getting a little gassed out there on the floor, especially early. I don’t think I have my legs quite under me yet. I’m doing everything the doctors have been telling me to do, and hopefully I’ll be 100 percent soon.”