1986-87 Iowa Hawkeyes

Front: Bill Jones, B.J. Armstrong, Gerry Wright, Brad Lohaus, Kevin Gamble, Al Lorenzen, Michael Reaves. Back: Jeff Moe, Kent Hill, Ed Horton, Les Jepsen, Mark Jewell, Roy Marble, Bart Casey, Michael Morgan. (Photo courtesy of University of Iowa)

Contributed photo

It would be an understatement to say Roy Marble is really looking forward to Saturday.

Marble, who scored more points at Iowa than any other basketball player in the school's history, never made it very big beyond college. He played just 29 games in parts of two seasons in the NBA.

The shining beacon of his career remains the 1986-87 season. Led by new coach Tom Davis and sparked by Marble, an acrobatic 6-foot-6 forward, the Hawkeyes emerged from the doldrums of the George Raveling era, won their first 18 games, finished 30-5 and could have (really should have) won the national championship.

It's the standard by which all subsequent Iowa teams are judged.

At Saturday ‘s home game against Penn State, that team will hold a 25-year reunion.

Marble, now an account executive for Infinity Contact in Cedar Rapids, still sees a few of his old teammates from time to time and stays in close touch with his buddy, B.J. Armstrong. But to have most of them back together at Carver-Hawkeye Arena is going to be, in his words, "pretty cool."

"It just makes my chest puff out to think about it," Marble admitted. "It's kind of like wine. It gets better with time."

That 1986-87 season is so much a part of the fabric of Marble's life that he decided to write a book about it.

Co-written with Brian Meeks, the author of a series of detective books, "Two Decades and Counting, The Streak, The Wins, The Hawkeyes ... Thru the Eyes of Roy Marble" hit the shelves this week. For now, it is available only at a few locations, including the Black and Gold store in Davenport.

"The book is the truth," Marble said. "Everything in it is through my eyes. It's basically me screaming out a thank you to the program and to my rhetoric teacher, Lou Kelly. She's the one who gave me the power to do this."

Marble wrote some of the book by speaking into a tape recorder although he said he also typed a lot of it himself in a stream of e-mails to Meeks.

The book, to be perfectly honest, has flaws.

For one thing, Marble and Meeks could use a good copy editor. There are dozens of botched names, including references to famed golfer Jack Nicholas (Nicklaus) and one of Marble's idols, Michael Jordon (Jordan). He tells of playing against Illinois' Kenny Norton (Norman), Doug Attenberger (Altenberger) and Jens Kujuwa (Kujawa) in a game played in Champagne (Champaign).

The book also includes some fairly tedious, blow-by-blow accounts of games. The chapter on the NCAA regional championship game with UNLV includes passages such as this: "Basnight goes to the bench and is replaced by Eldridge Hudson, number 33. Roy misses the front end, and UNLV gets the board. A couple of quick passes and then Banks takes shot from beyond the three-point line, but it is short, and Iowa's Wright pulls down the rebound. He sends the ball over to Reaves, who runs it up court and then finds Lohaus, who fires up a three. It, too, misses.''

It goes on and on like that.

Iowa fans still will love the book, though, because they genuinely adored that team.

It was a team that was easy to love, not only for its success but because of its relentless, pressing style. In that aforementioned game at Illinois, the Hawkeyes trailed 61-39 with 16 minutes to go, but rallied to win.

Then there was that wild final game with UNLV. The Hawks, the No. 2 seed in the NCAA West Regional, had averaged 92 points in victories over Santa Clara, UTEP and Oklahoma, and they bolted to a 58-42 halftime lead against UNLV.

They stood 20 minutes from the Final Four, where their semifinal foe was going to be an Indiana team they hammered twice during the regular season.

They never got there. UNLV staged a furious rally and the magic withered away in an 84-81 defeat.

Marble's book ends matter-of-factly with that excruciating loss, without him ever saying how he felt about it.

That was by design. He said he intentionally left out an incident from the game in which UNLV strong man Armon Gilliam decked him and mentally threw him off his game.

And he opted not to detail the emotional devastation of failing to consummate a special season.

"I haven't gotten over it. I'll never get over it," he admitted. "All I know is that Bobby Knight said, ‘If we've got to play the University of Iowa again, they may as well just give them the national championship.'

"That (UNLV) game just got away from us. I could go on and on about it, but I stayed away from it in the book because there are so many different opinions about it."

Marble said he has found that in spite of the disappointment, Iowa fans cherish the memories of that season. He knows that because he gets to Carver-Hawkeye for nearly every game these days to watch his son, Roy Devyn, play for the Hawkeyes.

"I'm there as a parent now and people have time to come by and talk to you," he said. "I tell my teammates, ‘You guys are going to really enjoy this (reunion). You can't believe how rabid these people are about the '86-'87 team.'"