KJ Marshall: An unlikely journey to and from Pitt

By Jermaine Sykes, Assistant Sports Editor APRIL 16, 2024

K.J. Marshall poses for a photo wearing fraternity letters in a Pitt practice gymnasium. Alex Jurkuta | Staff Photographer

Being 5-foot-8 and playing Division I basketball is no easy feat. The average height for DI basketball players is nearly a foot taller. But for graduate student KJ Marshall, playing up to a challenge is nothing he isn’t used to. 

As a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, the yearly celebration of the fraternity’s Founders Day on Jan. 5 is a significant day for Marshall. But just a few hours before the commemoration began, Marshall celebrated a recognition that fulfilled a five-year-long journey of ups and downs. 

The day prior, Marshall received a full scholarship from Pitt men’s basketball. 

“It was big, because I know what I’ve always worked for,” Marshall said. “When you get something that you always wanted, regardless of any other situation that you could have been in — I feel like it was one of the best days I’ve probably ever had.”

Marshall joined Pitt men’s basketball back in 2019. He walked onto the team after he crafted a relationship with assistant coach Jason Capel through their ties to Fayetteville, NC.

Capel was on the recruiting trail in his North Carolina hometown scouting two players on Raymond Felton’s ProSkills AAU team, where he couldn’t help but notice Marshall. 

“I’m recruiting two guys on the team,” Capel said. “But I can’t help but notice the point guard. When I look in the books, I see he’s from Fayetteville, as well. And so that jumped off the page. And I just noticed his energy, how infectious it was, how positive he was and he was a good player.”

Marshall walked onto Pitt’s basketball team as a first-year player in 2019 even though he could have accepted scholarship offers from other schools. But after his first season, a trio of unfortunate events drew him away from the university.