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The talented sophomore was a catalyst on the 2012 Group A Division 1 state championship basketball team.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Radford High quarterback Marcus Finley (3) talks with a teammate during practice Wednesday.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
RADFORD — Marcus Finley will join with his Radford High School teammates Friday to do something he’s never done before, which is to take on the defending state champion.
Finley, a multi-talented sophomore, will be getting his first start at quarterback when the Bobcats visit 2012 Group A Division 1 champ George Wythe. While it is true that Finley has never suited up against the defending state champion, he’s been a state champ but in a different sport. He was the Bobcats’ unflappable floor general when they won their third Division 2 basketball title in five years last spring.
Finley showed rare rise-to-the-occasion flair on the basketball floor for an athlete so young. Now we’ll see whether that same cool in the clutch demeanor carries over to the gridiron. Radford football coach Matthew Saunders is betting that’s going to be the case.
“He played wide receiver and backup quarterback last year,” Saunders said. “Your quarterback has to lead. I’ve been surprised at what a leader he’s been here in practice and in the scrimmages we’ve had. He’s cool as a cucumber. He doesn’t get rattled about anything.”
One thing that did get a lot people around here rattled was last year’s abnormal 3-8 record. The hoped-for bounce-back is accompanied by an inordinate amount of pressure on all concerned. Add to that a season opener at rugged defending champ George Wythe and that amounts to a less than ideal situation in which to break in an inexperienced quarterback.
If basketball is an indication, he’ll be fine. Finley was outstanding in all phases of point guard play in the biggest games of the season
His basketball performance of late has raised his profile as a college prospect in that sport. That raised the question of whether playing multiple sports may hurt his chance to play in college because he is not following the template that so many prospects follow these days to specialize.
There are shorter-term concerns about playing back-to-back athletic seasons.
“I’ve told the football coach if he gets my point guard hurt I’m going to kill him — just kidding,” Bobcats basketball boss Rick Cormany said. “I’ve never told one of my players not to play another sport. The main thing is to get a kid a chance to play a sport in a college that he won’t have to pay for. It doesn’t matter what the sport is.
“Besides, you don’t know with some of these young athletes what their best sport may turn out to be. Let’s see what he does.”
Saunders echoed the same thought. Radford has had good luck with multisport athletes. Two of recent vintage were Dontae Carter and Jon Thompson. Carter was a quarterback on a state finalist in football and guard on a state champion in basketball. Thompson helped lead the Bobcats to the 2009 basketball crown before excelling in football as a senior, the only season he played.
Finley said his favorite sport is basketball but he has a strong strain of football blood in his veins, too. His father, Ricky Finley, was a standout defensive back and wide receiver on some of the great Joel Hicks-coached Pulaski County teams of the early 1980s. Finley’s uncle Terry Finley was his brother Ricky’s teammate and the quarterback for those teams.
Marcus Finley is aware of rumors that had circulated that he was on the verge of announcing he was going to concentrate fully on basketball.
“I don’t know where that got started,” he said. “There was never any question in my mind whether or not I was going to play football.”
Football season took on increased urgency after the disappointment of last year’s campaign.
“I don’t know how many games we’re going to win because our schedule is so tough,” Saunders said. “But I mean I really enjoy being out here with this group. They have practiced so hard. Some of them have won in basketball, too, so they know what it takes.”
Finley is also a reserve defensive back and he’ll also punt. As a quarterback, his virtues are quickness, decision-making ability, and overall athletic ability. His throwing needs some work and at 5-foot-10, 150 pounds he can use a few extra servings of healthy food and more time in the weight room. The leadership aspect of the job he has down, though.
He promised to stick with football as he continues to play basketball. He went out for baseball last spring on a bet with one of his basketball teammates. He played outfield until hurting his throwing arm, at which point he was confined to pinch running. All in all, after not playing the sport for a few years, he made a surprisingly good showing.
“I’d love to have him back next year,” baseball coach Darden Freeman said.
That’s up in the air now. Finley is weighing returning to the diamond or going out for track to work on his speed for his other two sports.
At this point, it’s clear that whatever he chooses to put his mind to in athletics, Finley will do well.
“He’s a competitor,” Saunders said. “And he’s a heck of an athlete.”
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