Terry has helped 74 student-athletes play Division I basketball

April 6, 2012

PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - 14 years ago, University of Maryland Eastern Shore's men's basketball coach, Marlon Terry, was a man stuck in a rut. This particular rut was everything that his surroundings could offer. He was engulfed in a life of risk, but was not alone. He was one of many that grew up in an area that was turning youths into delinquents and athletes into hoodlums. He's confident yet weak, stable yet broken.

Fast forward to the present and Terry has helped 74 student-athletes achieve their dreams of playing Division I college basketball. He's assisted 11 players into securing professional contracts, four of which have continued into the NBA. Terry has both a high school and college education and will receive a Masters degree in Athletic Administration this May. He's successful, well-liked and fun.

Despite his accolades, he cannot help but go back. He sees where he is now, but has not forgotten where he has come from.

The rewind button has been hit and it's 1997.

Terry is 20-years old and living on the north side of Philadelphia, Pa. He's four years removed from dropping out of high school and spends his free time doing odd jobs around the neighborhood. He is situated between a caring family and echoes of violence on the street corner. It appears as if his future is now, and the only thing he is destined for is a life in the projects.

He wants a chance, but is unsure how to break through. A career in basketball would be nice, but he wonders how things could ever change. He feels a dull pain. It's a throb in his side that tells him that life has to be more than this.

All he needs is an opportunity.

"My cousin and best friend came up to me one day and asked me if I wanted to help coach," said Terry. "I knew all of the local players and thought it might be a good opportunity. I realized that this could be my way out. I was fortunate because a lot of people didn't have that outlet."

This "opportunity" was as an assistant men's basketball coach at Philadelphia Christian Academy. His tenure at PCA lasted five years; a five years that helped develop the "Shark" we all know today.

PCA was a breeding ground of young, local basketball talent. Many had the chance to do something with their basketball career, but they needed someone to give them that chance. Much like Terry, all they needed was someone to give them that opportunity.

"Coaching has given me the chance to see kids succeed," said Terry. "I like to help them get a chance and to see the better things in life. I've learned to respect everybody. I like giving kids an outlet, the outlet that I never had."

While at PCA, Terry coached several upper-tier amateur prospects, including Ronald Roundtree (CSU-Fullerton), Ralph Holmes (CSU-Fullerton) and Kevin Forney (Duquesne). His five years with PCA also included a busy winter schedule, as he served as the head coach for the Philadelphia Elite AAU squad. The time saw Terry also go back to school to receive his G.E.D.

His walk with success began as a jog, but before he knew it, he was sprinting.

The community began to notice the wonders that "Shark" was doing with Philadelphia basketball. His work showed people in the community that basketball was not only a good hobby, but a good outlet as well.

The strides that Terry had taken were also seen by Kenneth "Doc" Sadler. Sadler was the head men's basketball coach at the University of Texas - El Paso and thought Terry would be a good fit for his program as a student-assistant.

Terry took Sadler's words to heart and jumped on the opportunity. In the fall of 2003, Shark enrolled at UTEP as a college student.

"I showed up in the fall and Coach Sadler didn't even know I was coming," said Terry. "He was really surprised, but I wanted to be there. I never thought I would go to college. Where I'm from, I never thought I had a chance. He hired me right there as the student-assistant coach."

At UTEP, Shark took to his studies and left nothing behind as coach. It took Terry less than three years to graduate with a degree in Criminology, where he finished with a 3.33 GPA. He assisted the team to an NCAA berth in 2004 and a second-round NIT appearance in 2005. Terry served as one of the main components on both of those squads, as he brought in a few big names, including Stefon Jackson.

For those of you that do not know Jackson, he is Conference USA's all-time men's basketball scoring leader with 2,456 career points. The 6'5 shooting guard grew up on the same block and same neighborhood as Terry. He is currently playing professionally in Greece.

The following year, Terry took a job at Angelina Community College in Luffkin, Texas. Under his watch, four players signed Division I contracts. He then went on to the University of Arkansas - Little Rock in 2008, where he served as an assistant for two years.

In 2011, Shark left to pursue an opportunity at the University of Montevallo, a Division II program in Alabama. Montevallo reached as high as No. 3 in the nation under Shark's assistance that year. The recruits that Terry brought in to Montevallo were among the best in the history of the program, as the Falcons went to the Division II national championship game in 2012.

The tape has stopped and the present sees Terry as an assistant coach for UMES. He was a big part of the Hawks' seven wins this past season and helped aid in the development of several players.

As he cracks a smile in the interview, one cannot help but see how proud he is of his accomplishments.

He shows us that life is what you make of it. It's not always about how it began or where it ends, but rather about making the most of what you had in between. It's about making the most of every situation; to take every opportunity and make it your own.

At the end of the day, it's about being true to who you are.

"Put the word life on a piece of paper," explained Terry. "If you take away the L and the E all you have left is if. I always think about that word. Life is really about the word if and the decisions that you make. When you are young, you don't think about those decisions. Understanding this changed my life."

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