The son of former Connecticut basketball legend Donyell Marshall can definitely see himself wearing the National Flag Blue and White. But it's not what you think. Paryss Marshall doesn't dream of dunking basketballs at Gampel Pavilion. He's thinking about catching touchdown passes at Rentschler Field for the UConn football team.
That's right, football might be the next UConn program with a Marshall plan.
Paryss Marshall, a junior wide receiver and defensive back from Catasauqua (Pa.) High School, has given this a lot of thought over the last year or more. And even though it is early in the process, he hopes an unofficial visit to UConn this weekend might be the first step toward getting a scholarship offer.
"[My dad] has always been talking about how UConn is so nice and stuff like that, and I've always wanted to follow in his footsteps – but play football for them," Paryss said by telephone after returning home from basketball practice at Catasauqua on Monday.
With football season over, he will stay in shape on the basketball court. He's a 6-foot-2, 180-pound small forward with no intention of playing college basketball. His passion is football and he just completed a breakout season that included 44 receptions for 900 yards and 13 touchdowns, which was good enough for first-team status on the 2012 Colonial League all-star team, playing for his suburban Allentown school in Lehigh County, Pa.
On the defensive side, Marshall also intercepted nine passes, including two that he returned for touchdowns – giving him a total of 15 TDs for the season. He said he wants to play wide receiver in college.
"You get more involved with the team [as a receiver]," he said. "As a D-back, you're more like a safety player and not really in the action."
|One-handed grab by Paryss Marshall (From Donyell Marshall)|
For those who don't know, Donyell Marshall played at UConn from 1991-94 and was the school's first consensus All-American. He became the first McDonald's All-American to sign with coach Jim Calhoun and remains the 11th leading scorer in UConn history with 1,648 points. His 18.1 scoring average is seventh in UConn history and only Emeka Okafor and Hasheem Thabeet had more than Marshall's 245 career blocked shots.
After his junior season, Donyell entered the NBA Draft and was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the fourth pick overall in 1994. At that time, he was the highest draft pick in UConn history. Marshall played with eight NBA teams before retiring on Oct. 26, 2009. He averaged 11.2 points in his NBA career.
Since retiring as a player, Donyell has stayed in basketball as a broadcast analyst and as a coach, most recently in 2011-12 with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Developmental League.
|Donyell, right, with Travis Knight at Calhoun charity game (Ken Davis)|
Donyell, who still lives in Ohio after playing for the Cavaliers from 2005-08, and Paryss will travel to Connecticut Thursday and attend UConn's basketball game that night against New Hampshire at the XL Center in Hartford. Then they will be attendance Saturday at Rentschler Field when the UConn football team plays Cincinnati in quest of its sixth victory this season, which would make the Huskies bowl eligible.
"On Friday we'll take a tour of campus [in Storrs] and whatever else they have planned," Donyell said. Paryss has been to basketball games at the XL Center but this will be his first visit to the campus. Both are looking forward to their first trip to the Burton Family Football Complex and Paryss said he is especially interested in seeing the weight room.
At this point in the recruiting process, Paryss said most of his contact has been with Matt Cersosimo, UConn's recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach. He has also talked to Hank Hughes, assistant head coach and defensive line coach who recruits Marshall's area in Pennsylvania.
The Catasauqua Rough Riders were 12-1 this season and closed out with a 52-21 victory over Northampton on Thanksgiving before a crowd of more than 7,000. Paryss caught a 44-yard TD pass from quarterback Zack Bradley, an all-league selection who has been his best friend since the two were four years old. Catasauqua's only loss came in the district championship game, costing the Rough Riders a shot at the state playoffs.
Asked what areas of his game he improved this season, Paryss said his hands and route running.
"They've watched film of him," Donyell said of the UConn coaches. "They said they love his natural ability, his hands and his knowledge of the game. They are worried about his speed but he will get faster. I'm not worried about that. They want him to come to one of the [summer] camp sessions to get a better feel for him."
Paryss is certainly keeping all his options open. SMU and BYU are other schools showing interest at this time and there likely will be others. He said he originally had Ohio State at the top of his list but he lost interest when the Buckeyes were hit with NCAA sanctions.
"UConn is my biggest focus [this weekend]," he said. "I will visit other schools too, at least two or three. I'm not really sure how many. But I like the Big East and the fact UConn is so close to home."
Football is a big part of the Marshall family lineage. Donyell's uncle is Lenny Moore, who played at Penn State before starring with the Baltimore Colts and being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"We have football in our blood," Donyell said. "And I was a quarterback until ninth grade. Then I grew and I concentrated on basketball."
Donyell grew to 6-9, was the Big East Player of the Year in 1994, and was honored in 2001 as a member of UConn's all-century team. He has been a regular participant in Jim Calhoun charity events, including the reunion games at Mohegan Sun.
He has been a frequent visitor to UConn games. In recent years Donyell came back to see his daughter, Taylor, who was a UConn cheerleader and graduated in 2012. She now works for the Cavaliers.
The visit this week will be unlike any other for Donyell. Now Marshall is the father of a prospective student-athlete.
"Hopefully, this works out," Donyell said.