Iowa is not one of those states that are on people’s radars when they think of places they want to go in the United States. Outside of the history of being very well-known for agriculture, there is not much reason to go to Iowa. But for some, Iowa presents a second a chance.
More specifically, about an hour north of the state’s capital, Des Moines, lies Marshalltown. The city populated by less than 28,000 people is home to Marshalltown Community College. While many of the 2,000 students that attend Marshalltown go there just to get an education, some students like Slippery Rock men’s basketball’s Merdic Green went there to have another opportunity to achieve his dreams.
“We’ve learned that we all need to study,” Green said. “We all should’ve hit the books harder so that we could’ve been at different level then we are now.”
The physical education major from Levittown, Pa. said we because he did not make the 11-hour trip from Marshalltown to Slippery Rock alone.
Green is one of five Marshalltown transfers who came to SRU this year to play for Rock head coach Kevin Reynolds.
Green, who in his two seasons at Marshalltown started 62 out of 63 games where he averaged 11 points, five rebounds and 1.7 assists per game, is credited by some of his Marshalltown teammates as the leader of the group who told them about SRU. Green said that he saw an opportunity for his team to stay together at the The Rock and he wanted to take advantage of it.
“Slippery Rock is a good program,” Green said. “After talking to Coach Reynolds and Coach B. about getting me here and telling me it was a good program, I knew it was a good fit. I knew the guys back at Marshalltown. So I talked to them and they were just like, it’s kind of the same thing so why not come here and all play together just like we were.”
Green is joined by redshirt junior forward Amir Maddred and junior forwards Christal Malalu, Guilherme Verardo and Vinny Lasley as the newest members of The Rock’s program from Marshalltown.
While Reynolds was the one handing out offers, it was Green who pitched the university to his teammates. Players like Maddred said if it wasn’t for Green, he probably would’ve chosen a different path.
“Right after the season we had an open gym and Coach Reynolds came to check us out,” Maddred said. “He offered me right on the spot and I took it. But if Merdic would have told me anything negative, I wouldn’t have come here.”
That is just what Reynolds does. In what he said is an “unconventional fashion” of recruiting, Reynolds said that going into the JuCos and finding players has been one of the major keys to his team’s success over the last nine years.
“That first year, what people forget is that we took a lot of players from Cecil Community College and it was really successful,” Reynolds said. “Guys at Cecil had great experience here and sold it to future Slippery Rock players that were at Cecil. The best type of selling your product, is people who use your product.”
For Marshalltown, that great experiences started with Luis Santos. Santos was the 2012-2013 PSAC West defensive player of the year and signed a pro contract in his home country of Brazil with Liga Sorocaba in the Brazilian Professional League in the summer of 2013. Three years later, another Marshalltown transfer, Jamal Gatali, was drafted fifth in the National Basketball League of Canada’s 2016 draft to continue his career after playing two seasons at The Rock.
Those experiences not only gave confidence within the players to come to SRU, but for Marshalltown head coach Brynjar Brynjarrson to send his players to a program that has similar values as his.
Brynjarsson said that he has developed a great relationship with Reynolds over the years and has put his trust in a good reputation on and off the court. Coach B., as his players call him, said it is extremely hard for him to recruit on the budget he is given and feels that Slippery Rock deals with some of the same issues. Though a downfall for any program, he believes it is another reason that makes the programs want to reach the same goals for their kids.
“The Marshalltown faculty and staff are second-to-none and just want to see our kids graduate,” Brynjarrson said. “I think it is very similar to SRU. I want to send my kids somewhere where they can play and graduate.”
While everyone says they are focused on the kids graduating, no one forgets that it is their abilities as players that got them here. Brynjarrson said that Reynolds has praised the Marshalltown players for being prepared to play for his program.
“Kevin says that when kids come to play from here, they know how to practice,” Reynolds said.
Practice is very important to Reynolds, as it is one of his four factors that he said will get his players on the court, but it is their play in games that will define their legacy.
With all five individuals having two years left of eligibility, they have an opportunity to create legacies like fellow Marshalltown-turned-Slippery Rock alum Luis Santos and Jamal Gatali have, but more importantly, they get to do it together.