By Laura Amato
Natalija Marshall never really expected this.
The Christ the King freshman forward transferred to the school and its storied basketball program over the summer certain she’d try out for the team and spend most of her first season with the Royals on the bench.
Marshall didn’t just make the team, she’s become a major part of Christ the King’s on-court success this season and now she’s determined to help lift her team back to another championship.
“The mindset I had was just to play my game, play my role and know what I had to do,” Marshall said. “I want to win a championship this year, so I don’t want to do much. I just want to do what I’m comfortable with.”
Marshall is the first to admit she was nervous when she realized she’d be starting from the get-go and things didn’t go particularly well in those first few games.
She doesn’t look like a freshman – the phenom stands at 6 feet 4 inches and can shoot from just about everywhere on the court – but at the start of the season, Marshall knows she played like a freshman.
“At the beginning it was very nerve wracking,” she said. “The first tournament I was so nervous and I didn’t know what to expect.”
The Royals rarely play freshman and even fewer work their way into the staring lineup from the very first tip of the season. Clare Droesch, currently an assistant coach with the team, was the most recent.
Marshall’s first foray wasn’t perfect, but since those initial nerve-filled games, the freshman has seemingly found her footing and her confidence. It’s still the game she’s always played and she’s always been good at it. As far as Marshall is concerned, there’s no reason that should change.
“I realized, it’s just basketball,” Marshall said. “It’s the same sport, it’s the same basket. It’s the same game, just different players. So once I realized that, my confidence went up and it started affecting the game and started helping my team.”
Marshall has become a key part of the Royals’ game plan every time the squad steps onto the court. She’s an offensive force on the block and from behind the arc and a solid defender no matter who she’s covering. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.
She’s got the height part down — and the shooting stroke — but Marshall is determined to get stronger as well.
“Coming into high school basketball, everyone was stronger than me,” she said. “I’m probably one of the weakest ones, so strength is a big factor in playing AA basketball and I think I still have a long way to go. But I’ve definitely improved this season.”
The year has been a definitive work in progress for Marshall and she’s far from satisfied, but she’s also managed to impress just about everyone around her – especially her coaches.
“I think she’s going to change the image of what a big does,” Christ the King coach Bob Mackey said. “She’s just got an unlimited resource of potential that you don’t get in a lot of kids.”
Marshall is anxious to see where her career at Christ the King will lead her, but right now she’s focused on just one thing – a title run.
“I think we’re just a team full of unselfish players,” Marshall said. “We’re all so close and now we have that confidence. We think we can win a championship.”