@MrNewYorkCityy is more than just his Twitter handle. Kansas State point guard Markquis Nowell proved that Thursday night at MSG.
Markquis Nowell is so New York that he went to college halfway across the country and still couldn’t escape Manhattan.
In 2022-23, the 5-foot-8 short king took the Little Apple by storm, averaging 17.2 points and 8.1 assists per game for Kansas State. The transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock, whose Twitter handle is @MrNewYorkCityy, came to Manhattan, Kansas, to play for a different head coach. But he stuck with new leader Jerome Tang as he pieced a roster together to little fanfare.
It’s a good thing he did. At the end of his second season with the Wildcats, Nowell has his team in the Elite Eight, a game from the Final Four thanks to one of the greatest single-game performances in the history of the NCAA Tournament. At Madison Square Garden, no less — just a few miles from where he grew up in Harlem.
“Being in this environment, you have to be tough,” Nowell said, reflecting on his early playing days on New York’s playgrounds. “You have to be tough as nails in order to get on the court. A lot of people doubt you coming out of New York City. They say New York City point guard can’t shoot or they have that stigma of not listening or stuff like that. I feel like me, Kemba [Walker], guys who made it to the NBA out of New York, we’re switching that and we’re showing the world that New York City point guards are really good.”
From the moment Nowell stepped onto the court in the Sweet 16 against Michigan State, you could tell he was at home. His 10 first-half assists spoke for themselves, but a New York City Point God doesn’t leave it at that.
His raw numbers in Kansas State’s 98-93 overtime win — 20 points, five steals, and a tournament record 19 assists — were staggering. His lob to Keyontae Johnson in the final minute of the extra session, however, may have been the most New York thing that MSG has seen in ages.
Dribbling between the circles, Nowell appeared to turn to Tang and begin yelling at him. At some point in the exchange, he caught Johnson’s eye, and that’s all it took. Johnson cut toward the basket and Nowell effortlessly threw the ball his way for Johnson to finish the alley-oop.
“It was eye contact,” Johnson said. “I raise my eyebrows sometimes or something like that. So he just threw it. I knew I was going to get there, just had to finish it.”
It was the perfect cap to a perfect night.
“This one was special,” Nowell said after the game. “In front of my hometown, in front of the city that loves me. I can’t even put into words how blessed and grateful I am.”
As one would expect after a historic performance, texts from friends, family, and other players came pouring in for Nowell. Actually, they had been for a while. Even before the Sweet 16 — before the literally hundreds of texts flooded his phone — Kemba Walker, who knows a thing or two about March runs through MSG, reached out to Nowell.
“He just told me to keep my foot on the gas,” Nowell said. “Keep applying pressure and don’t let up. So that gave me some added motivation because I looked up to him when he made that tournament run.”
Next up, Nowell and Kansas State will face upstart Florida Atlantic on Saturday evening in the Elite Eight. The winner heads to Houston and the Final Four.
Nowell told reporters that he never got butterflies the first time he stepped onto New York’s historic playgrounds — Dyckman, Rucker, West 4th, you name it — and he clearly was undaunted by the bright lights of MSG.
If the Wildcats win on Saturday, it’s hard to imagine the Final Four would be any different.
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