A Roanoke native will face a huge challenge tomorrow night in front of millions. Gregg Marshall is the head basketball coach for Wichita State University.
His team plays Louisville tomorrow night and the experts say they don't have much of a chance; fine by Marshall.
Surrounded by a chain linked fence in the Bent Tree Apartments in Roanoke County is a basketball court. No lines denoting out of bounds, a free throw or a three pointer, just cracks. That never seemed to matter to Gregg Marshall, all he needed was a hoop and a ball.
"I think he had a little chip on his shoulder, having to prove himself," said neighborhood friend and current Cave Spring High School basketball coach Billy Hicks.
Marshall didn't grow up with much money, and moved around a little bit as a kid. Childhood friends Hicks and Randy Lower echo similar sentiments about Marshall. He's smart.
"If he wasn't a basketball coach at a division 1 school, he'd be the CEO of a successful company," Hicks added.
Hicks said Marshall was also tough. In college, he broke his nose the day before a game. Pretty small in stature, Marshall didn't back down after a cheap shot from a much bigger opponent.
"They got tangled up in a loose ball and that guy came across and raked across Greg's face on a freshly broken nose, and Gregg went after him. The guy's like 6-8 240. There's just no back down in him at all," said Hicks.
You can see his fire when he patrols the sidelines at Wichita State. His intensity has always had a way of getting under people's skin, regardless of who those people are.
"Gregg was not real popular in Liberty at all. And after the game Jerry Falwell is wanting to get his hands on Gregg, 'you're not welcome here!'" said Randy Lower.
At the court where the skinny kid from Roanoke grew up practicing, nothing ever came easy. Neither will a win for his team tomorrow night.
Gregg Marshall and his team face a big challenge winning this Final Four. A challenge his friends say he welcomes with open arms.