Around the Big Ten: Strickland balances books, beakers, and basketball

By Indiana Daily Student

(U-WIRE) BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – He’s your typical Indiana University point guard.

He’s 6-feet-2-inches tall, about 195 pounds, has the quickness of a jaguar and the hands of a surgeon.

With his mind constantly working, thinking two steps ahead of everyone else, his smile can electrify a crowd.

And that’s only in the biology lab.

For Marshall Strickland, the basketball court isn’t the only place he’s able to showcase his skills.

The junior from Winfield, Md., is not only the Hoosiers’ leader on the court, he’s a budding scientist off it. Unlike many of his teammates who are pursuing sports-related majors in telecommunication and the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Strickland has carried over his high school passion to college. Majoring in biology, Strickland has found an academic home where he can keep up a childhood curiosity.

“It was just always something I was interested in,” he said. “In high school I was in (Advanced Placement) science classes. I was kind of in the nerdy group in a way, but I was an athlete so I hung out with those guys, and it kind of grew on me.”

Attending South Carroll High School in Sykesville, Md., Strickland developed a passion for the sciences, which has stuck with him ever since.

“We had the athletes and the really, really smart kids, and I was a mixture,” Strickland said about high school.

But his dual role didn’t stop at high school graduation. He’s been wearing both hats – one for the biology department and one for the men’s basketball team – during his three years of college.

As every other student-athlete has to handle both school and sports, Strickland faces a little more work because of the nature of his major.

“It’s a challenge all the time,” he said. “You just have to know when to pick your shots – when you’re going to try to get an ‘A’ and when you’re going to try to get a ‘B.'”

Ann Bednarski, an academic adviser in the biology department, said in her two years she’s seen athletes from women’s basketball to track to crew come through, but never men’s basketball. She went on to talk about the difficulties Strickland faces because he is an athlete in the sciences.

“Him being an athlete takes a lot of discipline,” Bednarski said. “And him being a biology major also takes a lot of discipline. Both are very difficult things to do while in college. I think it tends to be fairly rare with high profile sports like basketball and football. It tends to take a lot of time and has a tendency to be hard to balance the time.”

But Strickland said he’s been juggling the biology and basketball duet for a long time, so he’s used to multi-tasking. If he wasn’t a basketball player, he would be able to make all A’s, the junior said.

As part of getting his bachelor’s of arts in biology, he has to take a slew of chemistry classes, which he said are by far his toughest courses. But that is all part of what draws him to biology.

“I love … I don’t know,” Strickland said undecidedly. “The cells, the molecular level of it. Just talking about medicine and the body’s immune system and stuff like that.”

With that bachelor’s degree he is set to receive next May, Strickland might not take his career on the science path. Having discussed the possibly of practicing medical law with his friends, he has put that path into his possible plans for post-graduation. But if law school doesn’t work out, can Hoosiers see a Dr. Strickland? He said it’s a possibility, but only if he can be an orthopedic surgeon.

But for now, soon after turning 22, Strickland has other things to concentrate on, such as midterms and the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. If working to get to the NCAA Tournament is hard, then working on that biology homework on the way to the NCAA Tournament might be just as hard.

“It’s real tough as the season gets really serious,” Strickland said of the work load. “You have to kind of prioritize and you may not do as well as you know you can, but that’s what comes along with it.”

– Josh Weinfuss