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July 29, 2010

A fresh start for Roy Marble Sr.

Roy Marble had just finished watching his son play on a Sunday afternoon in the Prime Time League when the stream of autograph seekers started flowing. One by one, young and old, Hawkeye fans asked for the signature of the all time leading scorer in Iowa basketball history.

One by one he signed and spoke to each Hawkeye fan giving them words of encouragement along the way.

"I'm surprised they still know who I am," he said with a laugh.

His former teammate at Iowa, Michael Morgan, stops by to say hello. He shares a warm embrace with Marble and offers support and encouragement.

It means a lot to Marble because since the summer of 2008, life has dealt out a series of punches that would have probably knocked almost anyone down for the count.

Marble grew up in Flint, Michigan, a city that was powered by General Motors in his childhood. His parents both worked for GM, but these days those factories are silent and the economy in Flint has taken a beating.

Two years ago, Cedar Rapids, the place he calls his adopted hometown, was hit by the biggest flood in its history. The lives of many people in the community were literally washed away by the flood. Included in the devastation was Legends, a downtown club and restaurant that Marble owned. He also lost a clothing store that he owned next door to Legends.

"In 2008, I had my world rocked with the flood. I lost everything," Marble said. "It took the heart out of me. Legends was my life. When people bring it up today, it's like bringing up an open sore. No one cared about the flood. I still had bills to pay."

Bills piled up and Marble, like many in the community faced a financial crisis.

"I'm not the only one in this community that got hit with a financial crunch due to the flood, nowhere near the only one. To this day a lot of people in this community still aren't back on their feet because so many people lost everything."

One thing that did lift his sprits was his son, Roy Devyn Marble, who was starting to really make a name for himself and follow in his father's footsteps on the basketball court. Roy Devyn lived in Michigan with his mother, so the face to face contact was somewhat limited. As fate would have it, the Iowa coaches started to take an interest in young Marble and eventually offered him a scholarship, which he accepted in July of 2009.

In August of 2009, Roy Devyn visited his father for a couple of weeks and needed to get back home to start school. With money being tight, Marble Sr. had to drive him back to his home in Michigan and on his way back to Iowa, he was pulled over by the police for speeding and also faced other charges.

"It's hard for me to say, but I couldn't afford the plane ticket to get him back home, so I had to drive him back," he said. "My intentions were good and I wanted to make sure my son got back safely, but on the way back I got pulled over."

As a result, Marble Sr. lost his job with a youth program in Cedar Rapids. It was yet another blow in a string of punches to the body.

"I've got no one but myself to blame for what happened," he said.

Since then he has been working to refurbish homes in the section of Cedar Rapids that was hardest hit by the flood. His hope is to repair the homes and provide affordable housing in a community that is still feeling the effects of the flood.

"I really want to help people in this community to get back on their feet. I'm trying to get back on my feet with them."

Many people would have thrown their hands up after losing everything, but Marble says it is his children that have helped to pick him back up and keep moving forward, particularly Roy Devyn, who now calls Iowa City his home.

"It's been like Christmas for me," he said. "I really feel like I have a partner and a son because he is inquiring about everything I know about basketball. He wants to be his own man, but if there are people he can tap into for knowledge about basketball, he is seeking it out. It's been great because now I can physically be there for him. I've always wanted that, but we have lived in different states."

Father and son have been constant companions this summer. Marble Sr. has been at every one of Roy Devyn's Prime Time League games cheering him on and offering support. As Marble Sr. signed autographs, his son sat nearby looking over occasionally with a wide smile at his father.

Earlier this month Marble Sr. again made the kind of headlines he doesn't want to make. He was stopped by police for driving while barred, no proof of insurance, and using an improper license plate light.

"I am accountable for what happened and the communication issues that happened with my license," Marble said. "After the last couple of incidents, I just want to let people know that I am not a crazy man or a bad guy."

Marble says that he has now worked out the communication issues with the authorities and has his license. Since the latest incident the phone calls and e-mails offering help and support to the former Hawkeye have helped him get through this latest incident.

"I am taking full responsibility for what happened and if something happens, you have to be accountable for those actions. I do want to say thanks to all of the fans. It's been a while since I had so many people reach out to me, especially at the PTL games. At times it has been almost emotional for me."

The support has also come from his former coach at Iowa, Dr. Tom Davis and his son's coach, Fran McCaffery. He says it means a lot to have the Iowa basketball family in his corner and helping him through these tough times.

"It's been amazing," he said. "Coach McCaffery has been so supportive and has said he will help me in any way possible to get through this. He is a great person and I really appreciate his support and the support I have received from Coach Davis and the entire Iowa basketball family. It means so much to me."

Life has been a rollercoaster of emotions and now he just wants to move forward, assuring everyone that this will be the last time you read his name in the newspaper for anything other than basketball and being a supportive and proud father.

As each days passes, Marble Sr. knows he is one day closer to seeing Roy Devyn run out of the tunnel at Carver-Hawekeye Arena like he did 25 years ago wearing the black and gold.

"As tough as these last few years have been, seeing my son wearing the Iowa uniform and running out of the tunnel gives me hope," Marble said. "I get emotional even thinking about it and I am sure I will probably shed a few tears when it happens, but those are good tears. I'm looking forward to being there as a proud father and a Hawkeye fan."


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