‘Heart over Height’: The five-foot-eight guard chasing an NBA dream

Junior Markquis Nowell moves around a defender during the game against Marquette on Dec. 8, 2021, at Bramlage Coliseum. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State men’s basketball (14-13, 6-9) is sitting on the verge of making it into the NCAA tournament after managing to gather some big wins in a tough Big 12 conference. The Wildcats have seen their fair share of big games from numerous players, but one of the biggest difference-makers this season isn’t big at all.

Standing at just 5 foot 8 inches, junior guard Markquis Nowell isn’t huge, especially for a sport that places such a premium on height. Minutes into tip-off, fans see why the undersized Nowell is on the court.

“I was always short, man, since the beginning,” Nowell said. “It started in high school when I was the shortest guy on the court at the time, and I just brought the passion.”

When Nowell came to K-State from Arkansas-Little Rock, he had doubters early on because of his height. Now the team leader in assists and steals and second in points, Nowell has proven he’s more than what meets the eye.

“A hunger and a grit each and every day,” Nowell said. “People would always tell me, ‘Heart over height, kid.’ I would just laugh, and it made me feel good knowing you can be the shortest guy on your team … but at the end of the day, the fans know who gives their heart, the most passion.”

Nowell has adopted that slogan, “Heart over height,” seen in his pinned tweet on Twitter.

Fans aren’t alone in seeing the impact Nowell has made on the floor. A great deep-three shooter, Nowell has also stepped into the role of a dominant defender, something head coach Bruce Weber has needed on the floor.

“Markquis [Nowell] with his pressure on the ball,” Weber said, “his dynamics defensively, even though he’s small, he puts a lot of pressure on other people.”

Averaging 12.4 points per game for the Wildcats, Nowell has been balling out in a physical Big 12 Conference. However, Nowell’s dreams don’t end at the Division I level.

“I always had a dream of making it to the NBA, being an All-Star,” Nowell said. “Sometimes it keeps me up at night, just thinking and dreaming and visualizing.”

Nowell isn’t shy about his goals, posting on Twitter regularly about his future plans.

Whether in public or private, Nowell said that keeping his eyes on the prize is part of his everyday life.

“I’m a big guy on manifestation,” Nowell said. “I read books, do things to make that come to life. It’s a dream that I’m trying to speak into existence. I’m doing my part, we’re working hard.”

Teamed up with a six-foot-tall Nijel Pack, Nowell is part of the shortest backcourt in the nation. Still, Nowell and Pack have put the Wildcats in position for the NCAA tournament bubble with a combined 29.7 points per game.

With Nowell only being a junior, he still has plenty of time to prepare for the NBA, but the NBA might need more time to get ready for him.