By Destiny Mitchell
A former Olivet point guard has kept his passion for basketball and remains active with students even after getting his diploma.
Antonio Marshall, now a 7th grade language arts teacher at Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center, mentors basketball students in what he calls “Man on fire training.”
Many who know of it speculate about the origin of the name, but Marshall made it clear that, “Since the day I was born I’ve been struggling. I was born a sinner,” he said. “I had a fire inside of myself for sin, and the Lord replaced that with a passion for the Holy Spirit. [Now,] I’m a man who is lighting myself on fire for the world.”
“Since the day I was born I’ve been struggling. I was born a sinner,” he said. “I had a fire inside of myself for sin, and the Lord replaced that with a passion for the Holy Spirit.”
The name also spawns, in part, from Marshall’s survival skills: he has survived three house fires, the most recent fire occurred in June 2012. He awoke that night to his mother yelling “fire,” upon which the family evacuated the house and watched it burn down.
Marshall first got involved as a trainer after Coach Ralph Hodge set him up with two students to mentor in 2012. After that, news of his training got around via word-of-mouth.
Marshall’s skills on the court and his sturdy knowledge in the sport of basketball were some of the reasons Hodge chose him to train other students.
“As a player and an athlete he is one of the top players I’ve ever had in over 35 years in this position,” Hodge said.
Marshall doesn’t train with the mindset to teach only the ins and outs of basketball; he trains to build relationships.
“I mentor to be a part of [other people’s] lives,” Marshall said. “I have a passion and a desire for basketball that [made] me want to give back.”
Mainly, Marshall trains in McHie or Birchard gymnasium. “I’m glad that I have a place and that ONU has made these spaces available to me,” he said.
When school is not in session, Marshall likes to keep himself available to members of the community, not just as a mentor and a trainer, but also as a friend.
“There was one student in the summer who would have a couple of friends over and he actually texted me to come [to his home], and we just hung out together and played basketball, and I really enjoy being able to do that,” Marshall said.
So far, Hodge has heard positive feedback about Marshall’s mentoring.
“I was recruiting another player at one of the local high schools a month ago and one dad of a player sought me out, and said, ‘I really appreciate you sending Antonio our way because it has worked out great,’” Hodge explained. “Not just from a basketball standpoint but just the motivation, the enthusiastic approach he has in working with kids and helping them build up their skills.”
Hodge, too, sees beyond the student-mentor roles Marshall has established.
“I think this mission of Antonio’s goes beyond basketball,” commented Hodge.
“It’s there to help kids in all areas whether it’s home problems or whatever situation they may be in, he wants to help them with their basketball journey, but he also wants to help them with some life skills and some other more important things than just basketball.”