June 16, 2005

Money G is Nothing but Net

June 16, 2005

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    In the 90s, Santa Clara had a guard who was ignored by major universities and eventually made the NBA. While everyone knows the Steve Nash story, Marlon Garnett blossomed into the WCC Player of the Year and for a season played with the Boston Celtics before establishing a successful career overseas in Turkey, Spain and Italy. Following a surprising year with Benetton Treviso, Garnett has some down time in Los Angeles before going back for training camp. In my 10 years covering the team, I've been blessed to see some great shooters, but Money G was the best. He still has some years and jump shots left but sees ahead his life after playing.

    "I'll be 30 next month and I feel for sure I can play another 5 years and want to play as long as I can for a number of reasons. Hopefully, I can push that envelope to 8 years where I can go until I'm 38 but maybe when I'm 38 I'll feel there's a couple years left. When the time comes, I know I'll want to do some kind of coaching or something that's related to basketball. I've got to be honest, it's a good living. What job do you know that pays this well that you don't mind getting up a 6, doing the travel and the sacrifices you have to make? I'm sure when I'm done playing I'll be involved in the game, whether it's coaching or working in personnel. The game has been such a big part of my life and I'm sure it will continue to be."

    Garnett is coming off a successful year with Benetton Treviso, scoring 16 points a game, shooting 48% overall and 48% on threes. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but Treviso won the league by 3 games with a record of 28-6. However, the run ended with a game five loss to Armani in the semifinals.

    "If you look at the season from the perspective of August when we started, we had a great season and exceeded all expectations. But when you look at the end when I thought we had the best team in the Italian league, it's kind of disappointing the way it ended. We were also one game away from making to the Final Four of the Euro League. In a nutshell, I thought it was an amazing season and I was happy to be a part of it. "

    Garnett signed with Santa Clara at the end of his junior year at Hamilton High in West L.A. and was playing in the Pump camp when Dick Davey, Steve Seandel and Larry Hauser saw the sharpshooter in person.

    "Coach Hauser was the one I spoke with and set up a school visit," says Garnett. "I had a good time there and enjoyed the home visit. Shortly after, and my mom and I decided we didn't need to go on any other visits and I was comfortable with signing early. I didn't want the pressures and the stress of going through my senior year not knowing what I was going to do. I'm sure I could have picked a school I wanted to go to after my senior year but never regretted my decision to go to Santa Clara. The experience was perfect for me and I owe everything in my life to going there. "

    Following Nash's graduation there were skeptics who wondered if Garnett would be able to flourish without an established distributor. Most notable was Chuck Dybdal of the Contra Costa Times, who called Garnett the most overrated player in the conference in a national publication. Dybdal would later seek Garnett to apologize after Money G was named WCC Player of the Year on a team that won the league title. Coach Davey has always used Garnett as an example of a guy who got the most out of himself with a tireless work ethic to enhance his natural shooting ability. He left the mission campus 2nd on the all-time three-pointer list, only behind Nash.

    "Shooting is one of the talents that God has given me. I always worked on it and tried to perfect it. There are different aspects like shooting off the dribble, shooting of screens, shooting on the run. I took that skill I had and make it the best that I could along with the other areas of my game."

    With a similar background, others might have thrown their hands in the air or made excuses for not bettering their situation. Garnett didn't meet his biological father until the age of 12 and an attempt to bring the family back together led to a four-year stay in Louisiana. The family would return to Los Angeles with Marlon going back to the only life he'd known: growing up with his mother and older brother.

    "I think it actually helped that I got to meet who my father was because now I have no hard feelings toward him. That's my father and I love him but he wasn't around so all I knew was my mom. She did a great job of supporting me. I admit I was a spoiled kid and am still spoiled now. I had a lot of family support behind me to pursue my dream of playing basketball. "

    While Mom was the backbone of the family, Garnett gives a tremendous amount of credit to his older brother to fill the void of a male role model in the family. He believes the absence of a father wasn't nearly the factor it could have been in other circumstances.

    Despite a lucrative career as a player, Garnett has spent a significant amount of time pondering how he can use his gifts in conjunction with his faith that has been there since childhood. A few years ago when getting a chance in the Salt Lake City summer league, Garnett used the game as a vessel to minister to other players.

    "Playing this game is very rewarding but it can be a tough lifestyle with a lot of temptation like a lot of anything in the world. Sometimes you need some guidance or a standard of living. It's always good to have somebody around that can help some guys walk a straight and narrow path. I'm not one to judge but I think I'm put into certain locker rooms to be that light. "

    Regardless of whether he gets another shot at the NBA, Garnett is at peace with where his playing career has taken him.

    "I played in the NBA one year and that's always been a dream of mine. I believe that one year was just a cup of coffee, just a taste. It was a dream of mine to make it and with God's help I was able to achieve that goal."

    He freely admits he probably never would have seen Europe without basketball and feels overseas travel is an area that we in the states don't take advantage of.

    Garnett's journey hasn't been a solo voyage. He is nearing his 4-year anniversary with Anais, who's originally from North Canton, Ohio, but moved to L.A. when she was very young.

    "You hate to use the cliché `love at first sight', but something clicked right away and there's purpose behind our marriage. I thank God everyday he brought me with someone that I believe will be purposeful."

    There is a language barrier that Garnett continues to battle and like many of us who studied foreign language in school, understand much better than he speaks. However, he's determined to make a difference after reading Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life. Those close to him can expect that book as a holiday gift.

    The stats show Garnett is a 48 percent shooter from the floor, considered excellent, especially from where he shoots. In life, we shoot with good intentions but often miss the target or shoot at the wrong target. This is where Garnett has it figured out better than the majority. Where it matters most, Garnett is 100 percent nothing but net.