WKU hoops great Marshall passes away

Tom Marshall, one of only three Western Kentucky University men’s basketball players to earn consensus All-American honor, died Friday in Fort Myers, Florida. He was 93.

Marshall, a 6-foot-4 forward, earned All-American honors in 1953 and 1954, narrowly missing first-team consensus distinction as a senior in ‘54. A three-time Ohio Valley Conference selection, Marshall led the Hilltoppers to the National Invitation Tournament all three seasons. Marshall finished his career as the program’s leader in points scored (1,909) and scoring average (19.1 ppg) — benchmarks that still rank him fourth and fifth, respectively, in WKU history.

Of the 16 school records he set during his time on The Hill, seven of Marshall’s accomplishments remain: Field goals attempted in a season and for his career, free throws made and attempted in a season, rebounds in both a season and a career, and career rebounding average.

He still ranks in the top six in the Western record books for points scored in a season and a career, scoring average for a season and a career, field goals made in a season and a career, free throws made and attempted in a career, and season rebounding average.

Over his three seasons, Marshall’s teams went 99-24 (80% winning percentage), won two OVC regular-season championships and captured three OVC Tournament titles. In 1951-52, the Hilltoppers went 26-5 and ended the season ranked 16th in the nation. The following season, they went 25-6 and again finished as No. 16. In 1953-54, Western went 29-3, powered by a 21-game winning streak, and rose as high as No. 3 before finishing the campaign ranked sixth.

Marshall, a Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, native, is one of only eight former Hilltoppers selected in the first round of the NBA draft. The Rochester Royals picked him seventh overall in 1954. After an encouraging rookie campaign, he missed the 1955-56 season when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Across his professional career, Marshall played for two years in Rochester, spent a season with the Detroit Pistons and then rejoined the Royals after their move to Cincinnati. In ‘58-59, he served as the team’s player-coach, then took over full head coaching duties the next year to become the youngest coach in NBA history (27 years old).

Marshall was inducted into the inaugural class of the WKU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991, and his No. 41 jersey was retired in 1999-00, making him one of only eight Hilltoppers to earn that distinction. Marshall was also named to the OVC Half-Century Team and the OVC 40th Anniversary Team.

The only other consensus All-Americans in WKU history were Clem Haskins (1967) and Jim McDaniels (1971).

Marshall is survived by his wife, Betty.