Marvelle Harris is not much into markers.
But there may be more to the 16.6 points per game that the Fresno State guard is averaging than just leading the Bulldogs in scoring and representing one of the largest jumps in Mountain West history from a freshman to a sophomore season.
The 6-foot-4 shooting guard, averaging 9.2 more points this season than last headed into today's game at Colorado State, has taken a definitive step forward after learning his way through his first year. That rookie season out of Eisenhower High-Rialto included some rough games — 0 for 5 in a loss at Washington State and 1 for 8 in a loss to San Diego State, to go with 3-of-11, 0-of-6, 0-of-4 and 2-of-7 outings.
"He had to go through a lot of stuff and (coach Rodney Terry) expects a lot — he doesn't treat you like a freshman and I think that's part of the reason Marvelle's growth curve was so high, because he wasn't treated like a freshman last year," said guard Tyler Johnson, the Bulldogs' only senior starter.
"But you see how much it benefited him because the kid is coming out playing like a monster. He doesn't look like a young kid when he's out there. He's already played enough minutes that he understands what he can get done and hopefully the young guys can take that same type of step."
Therein lies a question.
Does Harris' improvement foreshadow an overall move forward by the young Bulldogs, who are 8-8 overall and 1-2 in conference play and trying to gain some traction in their second year in the conference?
Terry and his staff have upgraded the talent level with their first two full recruiting classes, bringing in players with Mountain West-level length and skill sets while also suffering some setbacks in center Robert Upshaw (dismissed after three violations of athletic department policy) and forward Braeden Anderson (out for the season with injuries suffered in an auto accident).
The Bulldogs are starting a redshirt sophomore at point guard in Cezar Guerrero, a transfer from Oklahoma State. Freshmen Paul Watson, Karachi Edo and Emmanuel Owootoah are averaging 26.8, 19.8 and 12.9 minutes per game.
Alex Davis, a junior college transfer, has started 14 of 16 games and is playing 25.5 minutes per game in his first season of Division I basketball.
In the Mountain West, only San Jose State — which has played six freshmen, including its leading scorer, this season — puts a less-experienced team on the floor.
Harris said it took him a while to figure it all out — all of his freshman season. But he took what he learned and worked on everything in the offseason, developing and diversifying his game.
"A lot last year I used a spin move," he said. "I worked on a lot of different ways to score, expanding my game, shooting, mid-range, 3-point, working all around the court getting better."
Confidence also plays a big part in it.
"You have to be ready to take a shot when a teammate kicks it to you. You have to be ready to make plays on your own. You just have to, at all times, be ready when your teammates need you to step up," he said.
Harris opened his sophomore season with a career-high 30 points in a victory at UC Irvine, including a 3-pointer with 20 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime, and has scored 20 or more five times. Harris has hit 46.4% of his shots, seventh best in the conference.
The Bulldogs have credible pieces in place with more on the way — guard Julien Lewis also is sitting out this season after transferring from Texas, Fresno State added 6-5 wing Isaiah Bailey from Compton and 6-8 forward Eugene Artison from Franklin-Seattle in November during the early national letter of intent signing period, and Anderson is expected back at full strength next season.
But the only way to accelerate the process, Terry said, is to play.
Watson averaged 11.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in nonconference games, but has a total of seven points and seven rebounds in MW play. Edo and Davis also have found the going much more difficult.
"Being a young player is hard," Terry said. "The biggest thing that guys have to learn as young kids right now, taking a step up in conference play, is the urgency that you have to play with. Our league is as good as any in the country. We all were part of the Big 12 — it's as good as the Big 12. And with young players, there's a huge difference from nonconference to conference play. Conference play, our young guys are going up against older guys. You go up to Boise State, they're going up against a senior, and that senior understands second-, third-, fourth-effort plays. He understands what's on the line right now in terms of conference play.
"They're still learning that. But the best thing about our young guys, they're getting the experience to do it. They're on the floor. They're getting a chance to get game pace at game speed against high-level guys that are experienced guys and they're going to be better for it."
Harris already is there. The 9.2 points per game improvement from his freshman season is one of the 10 best in the Mountain West, tied with former Brigham Young guard Jimmer Fredette and former Air Force guard Tim Keller.
"Player development is really a key component to our program and I think Marvelle is an example of that," assistant coach Michael Schwartz said.
"We felt like he had a high ceiling when we recruited him, but then I think he's really worked to develop as a basketball player. But if you put three or four guys like that together, you can get excited about that. You get excited about the present and the future."
Second-year climbers: A look at top one-year leaps for MWC sophomores
Fresno State guard Marvelle Harris is averaging 16.6 points per game, up from 7.4 a year ago in his freshman season in the Mountain West Conference. That represents one of the biggest jumps in conference history for a second-year sophomore.
Here is a look at how the 6-foot-4, 212-pounder out of Eisenhower High in Rialto ranks in conference history in that year-to-year growth trend.
THE TOP 10
Player, school Soph season Scoring avgs Change
Tre Coggins*, Air Force 2013-14 2.4 ppg/17.0 +14.6
Jamaal Franklin, SD State 2011-12 3.0 ppg/17.4 +14.4
Trent Plaisted, BYU 2005-06 0.6 ppg/13.6 +13.0
Travis Hansen, BYU 2001-02 5.5 ppg/15.6 +10.1
Marcus Slaughter, SDSU 2004-05 7.9 ppg/17.8 +9.9
Marcus Bailey, Wyo 2000-01 7.8 ppg/17.4 +9.6
Marvelle Harris*, Fresno St.2013-14 7.4 ppg/16.6 +9.2
Jimmer Fredette, BYU 2008-09 7.0 ppg/16.2 +9.2
Tim Keller, Air Force 2002-03 5.6 ppg/14.8 +9.2
David Chiotti, New Mexico 2003-04 3.9 ppg/12.5 +8.6
On the road
MEN'S BASKETBALL: FRESNO STATE AT COLORADO STATE
Today: 6 p.m. in Fort Collins
Records: Bulldogs 8-8, 1-2 MW; Rams 10-6, 1-2
Radio/Webcast: KFIG (AM 940)/themwc.com
Of note: Bulldogs broke through for first conference win Wednesday vs. Air Force, but Rams won all three meetings in 2013, including 67-61 in MWC tournament quarterfinal.
The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @rkuwada on Twitter.