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Hampton’s Jermaine Marrow ignores his size to produce big-time plays

The Pirates’ scoring machine loves a good game of Fortnite and having dinner with Allen Iverson

At first glance, Jermaine Marrow might not be someone you would view as a hero to many in the Hampton, Virginia, community. He’s quiet, has a small social circle and spends most of his downtime playing Fortnite. However, the reality is that the young man from Newport News, Virginia, whom many refer to as “Mayno,” is one of the most dominant offensive forces in all of college basketball.

Marrow, the generously listed 6-foot point guard of the Hampton Pirates, devastates opposing teams with his ability to get to the rim while also possessing the craftiness to get good shots along the perimeter. It’s the type of game that take-no-prisoner competitors can appreciate and has Marrow recognized as the 10th-leading scorer (25.1) in the nation. Yet, the maturation for the star guard started back in 2012 while he was in middle school, when the current Pirates head coach saw the basketball potential in Marrow.

“The first time I saw Jermaine was in the eighth grade at one of the camps I was running,” Hampton head coach Edward “Buck” Joyner Jr. said to The Undefeated in a phone interview. “I offered him a scholarship on the spot. He was the smallest dude on the court but played the hardest and always found a way to score, especially for a guy his size. I offered him then because I wanted to encourage him to do the right thing, don’t worry about your size, stay focused.”

Staying focused and not worrying about one’s size seems to be a common theme to dynamic scoring guards from the Hampton Roads area. One who stands out in particular is Allen Iverson, and when bringing up The Answer to Marrow, it’s the first time the cool of Mayno is broken … even if for just a few moments.

“Man,” Marrow stammers, almost taken aback by what Iverson means to him.

“That’s the GOAT, to me. That’s the greatest player who ever lived. That’s what he means to me. He’s like a big brother. We have dinner and we’ve hung out. We talk about staying humble, he talks to me about his decision and gives his mentorship about being a man in this game.”

Marrow’s relationship to Iverson is representative of how people in the Tidewater area of Virginia represent and look after one another. Being from the “757” is something you’re born into. Hearing that Iverson is openly accessible to Marrow isn’t surprising, and Joyner recognizes that Marrow now owns that same responsibility of representing the 757.

“I take winning seriously, whether it’s Fortnite or basketball. I want to win, whatever it takes.”

“People know guys from the 757, from Iverson to Alonzo Mourning,” said Joyner. “Folks from here care about their own and rep the 757. Marrow recognized that early on and aspired to do the same. Now he’s become the face of the city and the program.”

Being from the area and repping the 757 is one thing, making a lasting impact and securing one’s legacy is another. Hampton’s basketball legacy is as strong as any historically black college or university (HBCU) in this millennium, with six Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championships and two NCAA tournament wins. Hampton’s 58-57 upset over No. 2 Iowa State in 2001 was monumental, as the Pirates program is one of just four No. 15 seeds all-time to win in the tourney.

The Pirates’ conference success led to a promotion of sorts, as Hampton decided to uproot its sports programs from the MEAC for the Big South in 2018. Hampton’s switch in membership to the Big South meant joining Tennessee State (Ohio Valley) as only the second HBCU at the Division I level not competing in a historically black conference. A new conference brings brighter spotlights and bigger stages, but Joyner stresses that for Marrow and the Pirates to secure their place next to the legends in the history books, the goal is still the same.

“Marrow’s got a legacy to chase in guys like Rick Mahorn and Tarvis Williams, and if he wants to catch Rick and Tarvis, he’s got to win championships. And he’ll tell you that himself,” Joyner said.

Mahorn led the Pirates in 1980 as a conference champion and the school’s all-time leading scorer in total points (2,418) and career scoring average (20.3). What followed was 18 seasons in the NBA, including serving as a pivotal role player on the 1989 NBA champion Detroit Pistons. Marrow is currently on pace to break Mahorn’s scoring records, and there’s a possibility that he could follow the former Bad Boy’s path into professional basketball.

“The way he has to score based on the load we put on him, I believe that will serve him well playing at the next level,” said Joyner, who will likely become Hampton’s all-time winningest coach later this season. “When we’ve played Notre Dame, Xavier, Cal … I watched him put up 20-plus points per game. He’s not on the wing having someone create a shot for him; at best, he’s going to get a ball screen.”

Marrow’s thoughts on playing professionally are refined and simplistic: “Coach and I have those conversations. If I stay humble and continue to be me, one day I’ll be paid to play basketball if I stay on the path.”

Joyner believes Marrow has one additional ace up his sleeve.

“When he’s on the court, he’s cocky with a little man’s syndrome,” Joyner said. “If I told him we were playing against the best point guard in the country, he’d respond, ‘Oh, I didn’t know I was playing against myself.’ That’s Mayno. And he believes that, with everything he’s got.”

The competitiveness of Marrow knows no bounds. The quiet kid keeps to himself and plays video games with his teammates, until you ask him how good is he at Fortnite. Suddenly, Mayno appears.

“If I play five games on Battle Royale … I’m definitely getting two wins, usually with me and my teammates. I take winning seriously, whether it’s Fortnite or basketball. I want to win, whatever it takes.”

Eddie Maisonet is an associate editor for ESPN. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 snapbacks and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”