There is a common misconception that the journey to becoming a professional basketball player involves dominating at younger ages, and while that may be true for lottery talents, those players make up a small percentage of the total population of these athletes. In the case of Alexander Marzette, he was not even selected to the junior varsity squad in freshman year of high school, yet he finished this shortened season overseas in the Macedonian Superleague ranking tenth in points per game (15.9) and eight in minutes per game (32.9).
No story is perfect and no progress is linear, but there are lessons to be learned at every stop along the way, and Marzette regularly preaches that loud and clear as evident by his progression both as a person and player on and off the court. Alex Marzette is far from content with his current position of relative success, but in order to understand where he stands today, you’d need a glimpse into his turbulent history within the game of basketball.
Growing up in Racine, Wisconsin, Alex Marzette grew to realize that his 6-foot 2-inch frame during his first year of high school would be ideal for the game of basketball and attempted to utilize that gift – on the freshman squad.
Moments of feeling undervalued can either be discouraging or serve as motivation, and Marzette treated it as the latter with the belief that he could reach any height through consistent effort. He knew he had the talent to be on varsity that season, as he witnessed his comparable AAU teammates make the cut and he also knew there was only one way to make sure they couldn’t deny him the chance for long, working nonstop.
“We were always training. We played summer basketball, winter basketball, spring basketball. We played year-round.”
Marzette was determined to see his name listed on the varsity roster and it wouldn’t take long for him to accomplish that at Jerome I. Case High School. At that age, Alex towered over a majority of his teammates in high school and his coaches thought he would be most beneficial to the team as a big man.
Yet, his eye-opening success came during AAU ball during the summer going into his junior year where Marzette was free to play what he saw best fit his style, skillset, and size with greater goals in mind.
My mom and a couple of other moms put together an AAU team and let us do our own thing. So it helped me become the guard that I am today – that’s where it started. But as soon as the high school season started again, I had to go back to playing a big man.
After growing to his current height of 6’5″, offers from Division-I schools that valued what Marzette offered as a guard were being floated around during that summer, but his unideal role in high school would soon slow those conversations to a near halt. Alex soon found himself representing a Division-II junior college in Illinois his freshman season but held no grudge towards his former high school coaches.
Honestly, I felt like I was okay with it. I knew I wanted to play for college but I didn’t know how to go about it. I didn’t think I was good enough to go straight to a Division-I. I knew that if I did go Division-I, I would probably redshirt.
Opportunity is needed to showcase your talent and hone your craft, and Marzette understood that at this young age. Especially because there were endless reps that needed to be put in at the guard position to make up for what could be viewed by some as lost time.
I didn’t mind going to the Juco because I am not a big man. I always saw myself in an NBA type of way. So I figured that me playing a 5 man right now is not going to translate to the NBA. I had to figure out how to play a guard… and grow in that position to get to the NBA.
Having attempted zero total three-pointers throughout high school, Marzette intelligently understood and appreciated the process toward eventual long term success in his chosen line of work. During his summer prep for the transition to college, Alex crossed paths with a shooting coach that saw potential in him as a player who would alter his trajectory in more ways that one, Mr. Hasty.
One of my friends introduced me to him and he said, “If you really wanna take this to the next level, you need to come and work with me.” Then, that first year in junior college, I was number four in the country in shooting percentage from three.
While plenty of credit should be given to Mr. Hasty for recognizing talent and being willing to put in the time with Alex to hone these raw skills, no progress would have been made without countless hours in the gym. And even after the clear jump in his shooting ability, Marzette was not satisfied.
Every single offseason I make sure to go back to him and just continue to build that foundation as far as shooting. And low and behold, I get better and better every year.
After transferring to a slightly higher level of competition in the form of a Division-I Juco in Tennessee, the recruitment pitches began to reappear as Marzette’s level of play continued to trend in the right direction. Alex Marzette attended Southern Indiana for his junior college campaign under the impression that he would have a large role on the roster, but another guard on the roster became eligible and favored, leaving Marzette an average of just 10.2 minutes per game.
Unhappy with how things shook out at Southern Indiana, Marzette would transfer to his fourth college in four years, Robert Morris University. Robert Morris offered him a larger role but on a smaller platform as it was only an NAIA Division-II basketball program.
There were moments in college where Marzette had opportunities to showcase his talents on larger stages, but he was admittedly hesitant.
Being intimidated kinda ruined me, because I had never played against any big-time schools or anything like that, big crowds.
Against all the odds, Marzette performed exceptionally in his senior year and was invited to the Milwaukee Bucks pre-draft workouts in 2015 where he was realized he could do more than hold his own against proven competition from top-tier schools. How often does an NAIA Division-II player get invited to an NBA workout? And how often does that player standout at said workouts?
There were a couple of exercises that we had to do and I beat out most of those guys. One of the head guys for the Milwaukee Bucks told me I was one of the best guards in there. So for them to say that, I knew that I was on my way towards greatness – sooner than later or later than sooner, but I knew one day that I would have my chance for sure.
Marzette heard 60 different names that were not his own said by Adam Silver on draft night, to little surprise. He had recently been told by an NBA agent that if he would have gone to two schools rather than four, he would have been a second-round pick. Alex understood that meant they recognized his talent, he just needed to bolster his resume if he wanted to continue pursuing the dream and the best way to do so was by playing overseas. Another example of Marzette’s maturity and perseverance through any roadblocks that surfaced.
Portugal was the first stop for Alex Marzette in Europe where he averaged 16.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.4 steals in 35.2 minutes a night. At the conclusion of that year, an opportunity was on the table to play against a higher level of talent in Finland the following year.
That was a great jump for me to be able to prove myself on that level, and I did. I was averaging 15 points in the champions league… everything was amazing, right up until I got hurt.
Nothing had come easy for Marzette up until this point of his career and it wouldn’t start that way anytime soon. He suffered a head and neck injury that would have him sidelined for roughly 90 days during one of the best stretches of his young career.
Teams are unable to wait on players during these stretches, and the decision was made to bring in additional players to fill the void left at the guard spot with Marzette sidelined. Upon his return to full health, a mutual conclusion was made to move on sending Alex back home for the time being.
It would not be long before Marzette’s phone range, receiving an opportunity from a familiar organization in the Milwaukee Bucks on his birthday. He suited up for the Bucks’ G-League affiliate, the Milwaukee Herd for a mere total of four games and 26 minutes, but Alex viewed the occasion as additional proof that he could hang with the highest level.
From there, it was back to Europe where he honed his skills on various rosters during the 2018-19 season before most recently having success in the aforementioned Macedonian Superleague.
With the goal of changing his family’s lives in mind, Alex Marzette has a current outlook on the game, and life in general, that his younger self could only dream of achieving.
He went from being intimidated by the bright lights and overwhelming crowds to striving for an opportunity to be in those positions to showcase his talents on both ends. From attempting zero threes in high school to averaging 38.4 percent from range on upwards of 4.3 attempts per showing while leading his team in scoring. Marzette has taken on the responsibility of being a leader for his squad in more ways than the stat sheets, currently owning the title of co-captain for Euro Nickel with plans of either the Euroleague or NBA in the near future.
Marzette has a proven and clear understanding that nobody reaches their ultimate potential by accident and the path less traveled on can sometimes reap the greatest rewards. There is no situation that he would back down from, having been through the trenches, and he has a life quote tattooed on him that signifies his daily mindset, “even against all odds, I shall prevail”.
At this point, there is no stopping Alex Marzette from continuous progress and genuine enjoyment of the journey he is taking and has taken already.
Forever grateful, and against all odds. You have to try your best to be your best. Continue to stay grateful, stay humble, and just work as hard as you can.
It can all be taken from you… There were times where I got ahead of myself… You have to be humble at all times because it can really be taken from you.
With a unique perspective that could only be attained from a journey as hectic as his own, Alex Marzette does not see failure as an option. There is no doubt in his mind that he was made for this, and after being exposed to his work ethic, determination, and stellar mindset, there shouldn’t be any doubt in others’ minds either.