Jan. 14, 2002
By John Sudsbury, Tulane Media Relations
He's six feet tall. He's an honors student. He takes his book-bag on the road, and at practice, is more likely to be found down on the floor than up near the rim. Just another typical Division I college basketball player? Not quite.
College basketball players don't cover themselves in floor burns and bruises at practice every day in order to......watch the game from the sideline. Do they?
If your name is Marc Siegel, you do.
A sophomore walk-on, Siegel knows that his greatest moment in life will probably not occur on the basketball court. He will probably never hit the game-winning shot for the Tulane Green Wave. It is unlikely that he will admire himself on the "Sportscenter" highlights. But do not bet against him becoming immensely successful in life.
After all, he is ready for anything. Generously listed at six feet and one inch tall, the Lake Forest, Ill., native routinely battles "the big boys" on the basketball court. He does not slow down. He does not hesitate. Be it a chance to drive to the basket, the possibility of snagging a loose ball with a flat-out, body-sacrificing dive, or the opportunity to travel the world, Siegel will seize it.
"Marc works as hard as any player on our team." Finney said. "As a coach, you wish you could have 15 players who played as hard and with as much dedication as Marc Siegel. But more than what he does on the basketball court, I have been impressed with Marc as a person. He is dedicated to being the best person he can be, and I respect him for that."
This hard-nosed student-athlete arrived in New Orleans without knowing a soul, and with a basketball résumé he could scribble in the palm of his hand. Basketball did not matter, he was here for a Tulane education.
"I am going to major in economics and I might minor in math," Siegel said. "I have always been interested in the business world and the stock market. This past summer, I served as a runner at the Chicago Board of Trade. That is something I would like to do when I get older, so I think economics would be a good place to start and a minor in math wouldn't hurt."
So how, then, did this serious Chicagoan work his way onto the roster of a Division I basketball program, finding himself matched against stars like Cincinnati's Kenny Satterfield at times last year?
"I was playing at the student gym, the Reily Center," Siegel remembers. "One of the guys I was playing with was Wade Mason, who was on the team the year before. One day he just said, 'You should try out.' I thought he was kidding, but he kept telling me that for the next couple of days. Finally, some of the coaches came over to watch me play and they said, 'We'd like to talk to you, come over to our office.' So, I went over there, talked to Coach Reynolds [Tulane assistant coach Jeff Reynolds] for a little bit, he got a little background on me, then he gave me a little tryout one day for about 45 minutes and the rest is history."
"After 25 minutes of watching Marc at Reily, I introduced myself and asked him if he would be interested in being part of the team," Reynolds said. "His reaction was, 'Are you serious?' After a few workouts, we invited him to join the team for one year. He made the other players on our team work harder, and his efforts made us fall in love with him as a person and a player, and we invited him to become a part of the team for his whole career at Tulane. He is an overachiever in the classroom and a very unique team player."
Siegel is a rarity in college basketball. He is a player who believes that playing basketball has made him a better student. In fact, he sacrifices his social life in order to keep up with his two priorities, academics and basketball. He is a player who truly is not concerned with playing time. He will dive for a loose ball in practice as quickly as in any game. Interestingly, he is also a player who would give up playing. Despite his love for the game, his desire to live a full life may be what takes him away from the game.
"I don't know where my basketball career will lead me, not to the NBA, that's pretty clear," Siegel laughs. "If there are other things that I want to do in the future and they come in conflict with basketball, then it will be a very difficult decision for me. It is a very important thing for me, playing college basketball, but at the same time, I know if I get an opportunity to study in Rome or somewhere like that, I need to seize that opportunity."
Just as he seized the opportunity to be a member of the Green Wave. That decision has seen him competing at the highest level of college basketball, matching up against some of those NBA Draft picks. He played 19 minutes against perennial power Cincinnati last year and he gained some national television time when he saw action against UAB in an ESPN2 game.
"Marc is a true member of this team." Finney said. "He may not get as much playing time as most of the players, and he may not get his name in the newspaper, but he truly understands what it means to be a student-athlete. Marc has proven himself to be deserving of being a Division I basketball player."
A little more than a year ago, Siegel had a hard time convincing even his closest friends and relatives of the truth of those words.
"I'll tell you, nobody believed me until our first exhibition game when they looked on the web site and they saw my name on the box score," Siegel said. "Nobody believed me because I didn't play very much in high school either. So when I came here and started playing Division I basketball, that's a pretty big step up from JV high school basketball.
Just how does Siegel explain his transition from mild-mannered, traditional Tulane student to that ball-hawking, diving, give-it-all-you've got player who has become an example to his teammates and a fan favorite? It goes back to a simple guiding principle.
"I had an opportunity to play basketball, I took it," Siegel said. "If I have an opportunity to go study somewhere special, such as a good university in Europe, I'm going to take it. If I have a chance for a good job, I'm going to go for it. That's how I want to live my life. I want to make the best of what I have."
From the Reily intramural courts to Fogelman Arena and across Conference USA, Marc Siegel has made the most of his Tulane opportunities, to the benefit of the Green Wave basketball program, the athletic department, and the university.