During the recruiting process to play college basketball years ago, Marcus Ernst still remembers what a coach told him.
“He said he didn’t know if I would be able to rebound and play defense,” the Edgewood graduate said.
Ernst has just finished his career at Malone. He was selected to the Great Midwest Athletic Conference first team for a second straight season and also earned all-GMAC defensive honors.
“It resonates with me,” he said. “I try to use everything.”
Ernst’s career with the Pioneers (18-10) ended sooner than he would have liked with a 74-66 loss to Findlay in a G-MAC tournament quarter-final recently.
“It was a good race,” he said. “We were lucky to be one of the best teams in the tournament.”
This season, Ernst missed Malone’s first four games through injury, but after returning to the starting lineup in December, he quickly became one of the best players in the conference.
He scored in double figures in 15 consecutive games to close the season. Ernst’s offensive efforts were highlighted by a career-high 34 points on the road at Walsh in early February.
Ernst averaged 11.0 rebounds per game, which led the G-MAC, and also posted 10 different double-double performances this season.
“Anybody can score at the college level,” he said. “Rebounding and defending are things the team needed me to do. My teammates made me who I am. My goal was to lead the league in rebounding.
Defensively, he had 25 blocked shots and 21 interceptions.
Ernst was pleased with how he progressed during his time at Malone.
In his first season, he played all 29 games. Coming off the bench, Ernst averaged 13.7 minutes per game and had 102 points, 112 rebounds, 19 assists, eight blocks and five steals.
The following season, Ernst started 28 games and had 224 points (7.7 ppg), 234 rebounds (8.1 rpg), 47 assists, 28 steals, and a team-high 23 blocks.
Last season, he grabbed 226 rebounds, averaging 9.4 per game, to beat G-MAC.
Ernst finished his career at Malone with 1,478 points and 1,100 rebounds.
“I just wanted to show myself every day, consistency is everything,” he said. “I worked hard, and what a great coaching staff that put us in a position to win.”
Ernst said winning the G-MAC last season for the first time and reaching the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region were career highlights.
“I made a lot of memories and friendships, and a lot of life skills that I learned through basketball,” Ernst said. “The championship is special.”
But the trip was more than basketball. It was preparation, spending time with teammates and playing in different places.
“The trips we took were special for all of us,” Ernst said.
Ernst played five seasons for Malone, acquiring an extra due to the coronavirus pandemic. He already has a degree in marketing and is starting a master’s degree in business administration.
His advice to potential student-athletes: know your priorities.
“Make sure things are done in class first,” Ernst said. “When me and [Jefferson graduate and current University of Louisiana Monroe football player] Jeremiah [Knight] were working during the recruitment process, we used to say “Don’t take any days off”. Lots of people are fighting for places.
Even though his playing days at Malone are over, Ernst may not be done playing basketball.
He aims to play professional overseas, and teams in Australia and Germany are interested.
“They’re looking for someone for a certain position,” Ernst said.
He hopes to make a decision by April.
“It’s hard because I want to see my brother [Jacob at Edgewood] play,” Ernst said. “I will pray about it and tell my family about it. There are a lot of variables.”
Ernst, however, added that he needs to see his surgeon next month to see if he can continue playing or undergo surgery.
“Before the season I had a torn meniscus and I was getting cortisone injections throughout the season and doing rehab to fix it,” he said.