Originally from Hartsville, South Carolina, Marcus was the third child of five boys, who all lived with their Mom, a single parent. Marcus worked part-time since he was fifteen years old trying to help out the family. He always played basketball, and loved it, but didn't take it that seriously. He played in high school during his sophomore and senior years and received partial scholarships, but his obligation to the family won out and he lingered after high school, continuing to work and help out his Mom and brothers.
That all changed one day when he was playing "pick-up," an open gym for basketball players where anyone can come and play. He met Ronnie Lee, a former player at Feather River Community College in Quincy, California. Ron was visiting family, stopped in to play and noticed Marcus right away. As Marcus was getting ready to leave, Ron asked him if he had ever considered playing college basketball. Marcus had never even thought of such a thing, but said if it was a good opportunity, he would. Ron made some calls, and just when it looked like he would go to Feather River, it turned out they already had their team in place. Marcus was very disappointed.
Ron made more calls and it turned out Billy Offill was getting ready to come to Mendocino College to coach. Marcus talked to "Coach O," who said he was in the process of rebuilding the program and would love to have him. So in the fall of 2009, at the age of 22 with most of his savings, Marcus and his cousin left his family and home town in South Carolina and headed to Ukiah, California.
Marcus was in for some hard times. He had missed out on deadlines for financial aid and some classes. Extremely frustrated and not sure how he was going to survive, he thought seriously about leaving, but Coach Offill talked him into staying, helping him navigate his way through the college bureaucracy as well as getting a loan. Marcus can't say enough about Offill: "He's the best coach I've ever had—not just about basketball, but about life. He has never steered me wrong."
While he did extremely well in basketball, when he got a stress fracture in his shin, he was forced to play injured his entire first season. Naoto Horiiguchi, Mendo's Athletic Trainer, helped him out and Marcus says "I wouldn't have made it without him." Marcus managed to average 20 points a game, despite his injury, and passed all of his classes.
Surgery on the leg in the summer caused him to miss a lot of conditioning and he didn't even get to start the second season until two days before the first game. Allowed only ten minutes that first game, by the second game he scored 18 points. He continued rehab with Naoto and the rest of the 2010-2011 season he averaged 23.8 points per game and was a first team all bay valley conference selection for the second year in a row.
Marcus felt comfortable with the team, with his coach, with his trainer, and the entire community. "The vibe was good, the community was good, and we made the playoffs for the first time since 1998! Everyone on the team was here to win."
That second year Marcus received calls almost daily from other schools wanting him: the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, University of Alabama-Birmingham, and even Pacific 12 powerhouse UCLA, but it turned out he didn't have the right amount of units to meet their requirements. So his last semester he was taking classes from Mendocino College as well as online courses at three additional colleges to ensure he would get picked up. A total of nine classes—27 units—in one semester!
In addition to Coach Offill and Naoto's mentoring and support, Marcus remembers Bob Alto (Speech Teacher), Deborah White (Math Teacher) and Lynn Haggitt (English Teacher), who all helped him enormously with his classes. His family back home continued to provide him with support every step of the way as well, albeit remotely. His mother in particular was always there for him: "For every problem I had, she tried to give me that word of wisdom, to keep trying, to keep pushing. She never complained about how rough it was for her raising five boys by herself, she always found a way to get it done." Her example helped motivate him through the difficult times.
The "eligibility clock," and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules and requirements, which all aspiring athletes have to learn to navigate, can be overwhelming. Marcus advises: "When it gets hard, remember not everybody is blessed to have the opportunities you have—somebody always has it worse than you. If you have an opportunity you can embrace, reach out and grab it! It takes dedication, determination and having the will to do what you always dreamed."
Marcus' dedication and perseverance paid off: he graduated with an A.A. in Kinesiology with a 3.6 GPA and met the requirements for a full athletic scholarship to the school of his choice: East Tennessee State. He picked Tennessee because they "gave me the blueprint of what I really needed to qualify for a Division I program." Division I is the highest level of college basketball.
Marcus is the first Division I transfer in the history of the basketball program at Mendocino College. He is very proud of this, and hopes he has helped "pave the way for other athletes that come to Mendo."
Glad to be free of his financial worries in Tennessee, Marcus still had to get used to the rigors of the Division I program, where he says "they own you … it's a little more like boot camp than school." However, he is very glad to go through it because they take basketball very seriously, and so does he. Plus, they expect all their athletes to graduate, and Marcus plans to finish his Kinesiology degree next year, even though that means taking 18 units next fall.
Marcus will be the first one in his family to obtain a college degree. He plans to "take basketball as far as it can take me. If it doesn't work out, I will still have my degree to fall back on." Open to what the future has on offer, at some point Marcus wants to give back. "I'd love to come back to Mendo one day and do some good … I wouldn't be where I am today without Mendocino College."
Marcus Dubose, Mendocino College Success Story
Date of Interview: 6/12/2012
Written by Christine Mullis