NBA prospect Naji Marshall from the Xavier Musketeers recently joined Raquel Rodriguez on Babcock Hoops Q&A Sessions. They discussed him growing up in the New Jersey and Washington DC areas, his time at Xavier, the improvements he’s made, Draymond Green, what he'll bring to an NBA team, and more.
Raquel Rodriguez: You were born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but ultimately ended up in the Washington DC area. Could you tell us a little bit about your childhood and your family background?
Naji Marshall: I grew up in both areas and both areas had high-level basketball. Between New Jersey and Maryland I was able to have the best of those two states. I feel like growing up with the youth and grassroot basketball there and to be able to experience both of those areas was unbelievable. It's made me the player that I am today.
Your father was a boxer and your mother is in the medical field. Have you learned anything from them and their professions that have helped you in basketball?
Yes, just how hard they worked. To be good at both of those professions you have to put in a lot of hours. I just saw them get up early in the morning to go to work and have two or three jobs throughout their whole life and work as hard as they possibly could to have the best life; all of that came through with me on the basketball court. I just put everything I can into basketball. I'm trying to be the best that I can.
You opted to spend a post-graduate year developing at Hargrave Military Academy. What went behind your decision to take that route, and how do you feel it helped your career?
It helped me mature a little bit before I went off on my own. It was high-level basketball and I was trying to become the best player that I could so that I could get a high major D-1 level offer. I was trying to mature my game and mature as a person, and like I said I was trying to be the best player I could so that I could play high-level division-1 basketball.
You had your choice of programs to attend in your recruiting process, including Florida State, VCU, and Virginia Tech. What ultimately led you to decide to attend Xavier?
Coach Mack and his coaching staff, with Mike Pegues and Luke Murray, really stood out to me. They made me feel at home and made that decision easy for me.
You originally came to the Musketeers while coach Chris Mack was at the helm. How did you feel when he left for Louisville?
I was happy for him. With Coach Steele filling in for that job, he was on the staff with Chris Mack, so it really wasn't a big difference. I was happier for him than anything.
Xavier graduated a lot of production heading into your sophomore year. In which aspects do you feel you grew the most as you were thrust into a more prominent role in 2018-19?
My leadership; being a leader for the new guys, the newcomers, and showing them how to be and how to act when they get into my shoes when it's their turn. My work ethic and the leadership I bring into the game.
You logged 33 games in your sophomore year, but you were banged up with back, shoulder, and ankle injuries during that season. How did you deal with navigating that adversity and nagging injuries?
I dealt with it by being tough. I did what I had to do to nourish my body, and I locked in on the court to do what I had to do to get through it. As I said, I had to be a leader for my team and I had to be there, so I did whatever it took.
In your career, the Big East has been loaded with talented players like Markus Howard, Myles Powell, and Mikal Bridges, to name a few. How do you feel playing against such high-level competition every night has prepared you for the NBA?
You named some great players, and Mikal is in the NBA right now doing his thing. For me to be able to play them gives me the idea that I should be ready, at least a little bit. To go out and compete against those guys each night at such a high level, it was the best basketball around. For me to be able to play that type of basketball every night, man, it was just a wonderful feeling.
Ultimately, how will you most remember your time at Xavier? Did you accomplish everything you set out to achieve?
Most definitely. I'll look back at my time there and think about the hard work and earning everything I got. I developed a work ethic that has gotten me to this point. I'm just blessed to have been there for three years. I'm thankful for everything they've done for me.
Besides basketball, what other interests and hobbies do you have?
Right now during the quarantine, I've definitely just been chilling, for real. I've been getting in the gym two or three times, lifting, and doing interviews. My days have really been covered. Any time I get to chill, I watch YouTube, listen to music, and do stuff like that.
Could you walk us through a typical day for you currently as you prepare for the NBA Draft?
I wake up about 10 AM and work out at 11 AM. I lift at 3 PM and then I usually do some interviews. After that, I go back to the gym to shoot around 7 PM. Then, when I’m done, it's my time to chill. Then I wake up the next day and do it all over again.
For those who are unfamiliar with your game, would you mind giving us a quick rundown of who you are as a player on the court?
I'm a very versatile player. I can do it through multiple aspects of the game. I'm very coachable. I love to compete on the defensive end and I love to guard the best player. On the offensive end, I can dribble, get to the rim, pass it, and I can shoot it. I can be put anywhere on the floor.
Who is one player you model your game after the most?
Throughout this process and getting ready for the next level, I've definitely watched a lot of Draymond Green. He's very versatile. The way he brings his skills to many aspects of the game, his competitiveness, and his will to win -- I see that match my game. I've definitely been watching a lot of film of him.
What are some things that you would like to work and improve on in your game?
All over, to be honest, doing everything I can. I want to become the best shooter that I can and I want to continue to lead on the defensive end and be the defender that I am.
What are some aspects you feel you’ve grown the most during your three years in Cincinnati?
All of it, honestly. I've always been a versatile player, but each year I’ve felt like I've gotten better and better. Watching film and getting the reps and becoming a student of the game. I'm just learning so much and I really feel like I've sharpened my skills. I've continued to do that throughout the pre-draft process.
Let's pretend that you've just entered an elevator with a general manager of a team that's considering selecting you. What is your elevator pitch as to why you're his guy?
I’d tell him how versatile I am as a player and how I am on and off the court. I love winning, I love defense, and I just get it done -- period.