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2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League - Chicago Bulls v Toronto Raptors

Player Preview: Markquis Nowell, the Raptors’ next great success story

From Justin Champagnie to Muggsy Bogues to Fred VanVleet, Nowell’s been destined to be a Raptor

Photo by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

Markquis Nowell’s social handle is @MrNewYorkCityy. It may not take long for him to become Mr. Toronto.

Markquis’ basketball career took him through three different high schools in New York and New Jersey. After getting limited run under Hall-of-Famer Bob Hurley Sr. at St. Anthony, he transferred to Bishop Loughlin Memorial where he played alongside former Raptor, Justin Champagnie, and his brother, Julian. Nowell averaged 19.9 points and 8.1 assists in his second year before transferring to The Patrick School. Markquis dealt with a few injuries that kept him out for a month and, ultimately, left him on the short end (sorry) of the stick when it came to scholarship offers.

He’d eventually get an offer from a fellow Harlem Native, Alfred Jordan, who was the Assistant Coach at Little Rock. Nowell had a decent freshman year averaging 11.1 points, 4.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.4 steals. Markquis’ second year put his name (and team) on the map. Little Rock’s record skyrocketed from 10 to 21 wins, due in large part to Nowell’s 17.2 points, 4.9 assists, and 3.0 rebounds. Markquis would be named First Team All Sun Belt, although his Trojans were robbed of a tournament bid when the pandemic took away the rest of the NCAA season.

After two successful seasons at Little Rock, Nowell transferred to Kansas State, where he seemed to fit in nicely.

During his time at Kansas City, Nowell was nothing short of spectacular. In his second (and final) season with the Wildcats, Markquis was named to First Team All Big 12, First Team All-Defense, AND won the Bob Cousy award — given to the nation’s best Point Guard.

He was probably best known for his performance during the 2023 March Madness tournament. Nowell led the Wildcats to an upset win over Michigan State in the Sweet 16. In that game, Nowell broke the NCAA Tournament record with 19 assists!

With a stellar college career in tow and awards to validate his supremacy, Nowell entered his proverbial hat into the NBA Draft ring.

**record scratch**

This is the part of the story where the Fred VanVleet comparisons start flying in. I get it. They’re both shorter than your average player (or in Nowell’s case, shorter than your average short player) who didn’t get drafted. Despite overcoming their respective short statures to produce successful college careers, it wasn’t enough to convince any team to use a draft pick on them.

Nowell initially appeared like he may be drafted. He participated in 10 different workouts for NBA teams, showing off his defensive peskiness and Rucker Park toughness. One NBA Scout noted, “ Nowell had the best workout of any guard they brought in.”

College Basketball Analyst, Jay Bilas, sang Nowell’s praises. “He’s either going to get drafted or have his phone ring right away as soon as the draft is over, because he can play. He can really play.....I think he’s going to not only play in the NBA, but I think he’s got an opportunity to play for quite some time.”

Nowell was smart enough to know that nothing’s guaranteed in this business, especially with someone his size. To prepare for the likelihood of going undrafted and/or battling taller players for an NBA roster spot, Markquis sought advice from the “who’s who” of sub-6’0 NBA guards: Isaiah Thomas, Raptors legend, Muggsy Bogues, Raptors umm legend(?), Isiah Thomas, Jose Alvarado, Nate Robinson, and fellow NYC native, Kemba Walker.

“You want to build relationships with the people who did it before you. I wanted to see if they had any knowledge or wisdom I can learn from and use throughout my career. I’m trying to keep short guards relevant. There’s not many of us in the NBA that’s playing at a high level. I want to put on for them.”

Rewatch the first clip on this post. Look at the joy on Markquis’ face as he receives the call from Masai Ujiri, welcoming him to the Toronto Raptors. That joy is a product of understanding the grind, betting on yourself, and **insert another former Raptor’s motto**. Nowell’s journey is only starting but he may have more fuel than anyone from this draft class.

“I use it as fuel, motivation to prove people who don’t believe in me wrong. It’s another chapter in the book, it’s another story I have to write to make it to the NBA.”

Nowell quickly showed his value during Summer League. His 12 points and 6.8 assists averages don’t tell the full story of his impact. Markquis was a Vegas!

It’s safe to say that Nowell’s not short on confidence. He backed up that belief with some eye-opening performances at Summer League and doubled down during the off-season by exclaiming he’ll be the best Raptor to ever put on a uniform!

Actions speak louder than words. After looking through some of his college highlights, it’s become even more obvious to me that he has the right tools to succeed in the NBA. Think of all the legendary point guards that came from New York City, Nowell embodies pieces of a lot of them. He has the ball on a string like Rafer Alston and passes with the flair of Mark Jackson. He has the microwave-scoring ability of Stephon Marbury with the toughness of Rod Strickland. His three-point range is farther than any of his predecessors and he has an innate ability of getting to — and scoring efficiently at — the rim!

Mr. New York City is ready to write the next chapter of his story in the confines of Scotiabank Arena. It’s not a matter of if but when he’ll be known as Mr. Toronto.

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