Mission from Marrs
WORTHINGTON -- For someone who has come a long ways on and off the court, Minnesota West basketball standout Eddie Marrs doesn't have to look far to know who he's playing for.
In fact, her portrait inked on his left arm is a constant reminder.
"No matter how far away I am from my mom, I feel like she's always by my side," Marrs said. "When I'm on the court, this is who I'm doing it for, as well as myself, but she's always right there with me, literally right there with me."
Marrs got his mom's picture tattooed on his left arm while in high school as a way to keep his mom with him forever.
"People can have pictures and everything like that, but pictures get old," Marrs said. "If you get a tattoo of somebody, it's with you forever. You'll never lose it or anything like that."
As the youngest of three children growing up in Omaha, Neb., Marrs has seen what his mom, Patricia, had to go through to raise him and his sisters.
"The strength that she gave me and the strength that I've seen her have as far as raising me and my sisters, that's the biggest inspiration that I have," Marrs said. "As far as the grades and everything like that, that's really my big inspiration. When I graduate at my next university or college, I'll be the first male to graduate college, period, from my family."
A potent scorer on the court, Marrs is just as successful off the court. The sophomore is majoring in liberal arts with hopes of becoming a probation officer someday. However, between basketball and the classroom, Marrs recently earned dean's list honors with a 3.6 grade point average.
"Hopefully, after this semester, I can get a 3.8," Marrs said. "I'm trying to move it up. I graduated high school with a 3.7 or 3.8, something like that, so I'm just trying to keep it going."
Head coach Justin Heckenlaible sees Marrs as the type of guy who personifies the program.
"Hopefully, he's going to be a great example for us to use with other kids. In high school, he wasn't getting very much (attention), and now he's at (this) university or college," Heckenlaible said. "He does a great job in the classroom and is on track to graduate. Basically, he's the prototypical poster child of the kids that we like to recruit, and hopefully, we can get several more of him over the next couple years."
While Marrs is the go-to guy for the Bluejays, it wasn't always that way for the 6-1 sophomore.
"I was more of a role player when I was in high school," Marrs said. "The offense was centered around a big 6-5 kid that came in from Gary, Indiana, and then a football player that plays for Nebraska now. I was really a role player, and this year, I've become more of a captain."
Coming out of North High School in Omaha, Marrs was uncertain of his future. That was when Heckenlaible came calling.
"I really didn't want to come to college after high school. I was going to stay in Omaha and work and do something like that," Marrs recalled. "But coach came, and he saw me play at one of the holiday tournaments and gave me a call. One of my friends from back in Omaha, Cameron Barlowe, was up here, and coach had him talk to me."
From there, Barlowe and Heckenlaible convinced Marrs to become a Bluejay.
"I had another offer, but it was down in Texas, and my mom really didn't want me to go that far," Marrs said. "My mom thought this was the best place, and when I came up here, and I saw the people in the main office and played with some of the guys, I felt that it was a nice place for me."
Transforming from a role player to the main scorer this season wasn't something that happened overnight for Marrs. Spending all hours of the night in an Omaha gym over the summer helped Marrs develop into the player he is today.
"I got a membership to 24 Hour Fitness, so it allowed me to go to the gym anytime I wanted to," Marrs said. "There were nights I would go to the gym at 9 o'clock at night and stay until 11 or 12 o'clock to work out and play basketball. Then, I would go back there literally at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning when I was just bored at home."
The work has paid off for the sophomore guard. With a dead-on jump shot and the ability to slash through the lane, Marrs is averaging a league best (MCCC Northern and Southern Division) 22.9 points per contest.
With Marrs scoring at will, the rest of the Bluejays have struggled to a 1-7 conference and 5-15 overall record.
"It gets frustrating every now and then," Marrs said of the season. "When things go bad, it's easy for people to turn on each other. I'll admit that we have turned on each other at times, but it's all in the past. We really need to focus on these next games."
After a slow start, Marrs has continued to step up his game in the past few weeks.
"His game has expanded, even since last year," Heckenlaible said. "Last year, he was kind of a role player for us. This year, we've had to count on him to score more for us. He's been getting the shots. In the first few games of conference, he wasn't making them, but in the last four or five, he's been shooting really well."
Marrs had a breakout game against Riverland Jan. 12. Against the Blue Devils, Marrs scored 16 of the Bluejays' 18 points in a stretch during the game en route to a 35-point performance.
"It was very fun to watch, and it made it very easy to coach," Heckenlaible said. "All we did was run some things for him and cleared it out for him. He got on a roll, and that's definitely what he's capable of doing. Ever since that game, he's really taken off."
If that performance wasn't enough, in Marrs' next game, he scored 35 points in the second half and 41 in the game in an effort to lead MW on a furious comeback.
"I've had big games before, more in AAU basketball, but as far as for a school, I never would have thought it (was possible)," Marrs said. "I've always known that I'd have the potential to do it, but just with the hard work, I'm not surprised."
For his efforts against Fergus Falls Jan. 16, and his 41-point performance, the sophomore guard was named NJCAA Division III Co-Player of the Week.
"It was a real big honor," Marrs said. "I worked hard in the off-season and everything like that. It upset me a little bit because we didn't get the win at the game, but we did play hard. It was a real big honor, and I appreciated it a lot."
While the weekly honors continue to roll in, the future is still unclear for Marrs.
"Getting to Division I would be a real big dream come true. I've always dreamed about playing Division I basketball --whether it was the big ones on TV, or just knowing that I've played Division I basketball," Marrs said. "DII is still a big dream come true, as long as I don't have to pay for school next year, that's the most important thing, really."
If Marrs continues to put up similar numbers for the remainder of the season, Heckenlaible isn't ruling anything out.
"It depends on how the last part of the year goes. If he continues to play this way, it's going to open up a lot of doors," Heckenlaible said. "A lot of it depends on the timing and the needs of the particular schools. He has some DII schools calling, and if he continues to play well, Division I is an opportunity."
But for Marrs, the most important thing is being able to take the financial pressure of college off his mom.
"The only thing that I think about is getting to the next school. That's really the biggest goal that I have," Marrs said. "I want to make sure that my mom doesn't have to pay for anything next year. It would take a load off my mom for two years, and that's the biggest goal I have right now."
But no matter where basketball takes the Omaha native next season, his mom on his arm, and soon his sisters on his back, will be there with him as a reminder of who he's playing for.