Marcus Capers ’12—What it means to be a Coug
by Darin Watkins '84 | © Washington State University
Marcus Capers wanted to make his place in the game of basketball. Now, after a four-year career at Washington State University, his workman-like attitude has forever etched his name into the Cougar record book.
In sports circles, Capers is referred to as the iron man, a distinction reserved for those rare players who have played more, or stayed with the game longer, than anyone else. Officially, the Cougar guard appeared in 135 games over his four years, an accomplishment that tops the previous record set by George Hamilton more than 60 years ago. It’s a WSU record enriched by two years of post-season tournaments and stands, as some observers believe, as a record that may never be broken.
“It was a complete surprise. I didn’t realize I had played that many games,” says Capers. “I wanted to make my mark on the game, and not live in the shadows of someone else’s success.”
Growing up in central Florida, Capers’ dream was to stay in basketball all his life. He felt that to be successful as a high school basketball coach, he needed to succeed as a player. “Having played the game brings a different level of respect,” says Capers. “The same with recruiting. It’s how I helped bring several current athletes to WSU.”
Capers is known at WSU for being a natural leader—one who always showed up for practice and stayed focused in every game. The stats show Capers’ contribution in every category—points scored, rebounds, assists, and steals. What they don’t show is that, as a player, Capers just seemed to make everyone else around him play better.
“Marcus was all about the team winning games and had a role that made him a valuable asset,” says WSU basketball coach Ken Bone. “A very good defender and an opportunistic offensive player. We will miss his acrobatic dunks and his ability to always play with great effort!”
Recruited out of high school by several major programs, Capers narrowed his choice to Florida State and WSU. But in the end, he sensed that becoming a Cougar might prove more meaningful to him.
“There really is something special about this school ... something very different from other campuses,” Capers says.
But his journey to Pullman was almost cut short when his scholarship was derailed. “Coach Bennett called me with the bad news,” he says. “The scholarship he had to offer had just been given to another player.”
The WSU faithful love to tell the story of how player Taylor Rochestie generously gave up his own scholarship at the beginning of his senior season, relinquishing it for Capers. The two had met during Capers’ recruiting visit to Pullman and had remained in contact.
Ask Capers about his most memorable moment at WSU and he will point to his freshman season. It was Senior Night in 2009, with 12 seconds to play and his team down by two points. Capers had the ball in the middle of the court, with a chance to be the hero. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Rochestie moving down the court—and without hesitation passed him the ball.
Rochestie took Capers’ feed and launched a game winning three-pointer that propelled him and the entire team into Cougar folklore.
“That may be the greatest assist of my career,” Capers said. “To, in some small way, give back to Taylor—who had given so much to me—was really special.”
The first in his family to go to college, Capers felt tremendous pressure to succeed. But at first he didn’t appreciate the enormity of the challenge awaiting a student athlete. It was like working two full-time jobs, and sometimes overwhelming. Fortunately, he was connected with a volunteer mentor. Damen “Gabby” Rodriguez urged Capers to experience the university, interact with other students and faculty, and develop that critically important network.
“He helped me grow to love Pullman,” says Capers, “... everything, that is, except the snow. For a Florida guy like me, the snow has been a tough adjustment.”
Capers found himself calling Rodriguez almost daily. There was that difficult day when he learned head basketball coach Tony Bennett was leaving WSU. Capers considered transferring, but Rodriguez helped him reason through it.
“There are certain things you can’t tell your teammates, or that you don’t really want to tell your friends,” says Capers. “My mentor talked with me as ‘Marcus the student,’ not ‘Marcus the athlete.’ It made all the difference.”
Capers closed his senior year at WSU amidst something of a whirlwind. The team played into the championship round of the CBI Basketball Tournament, extending their season into the final days of March. For Capers, the eight weeks that followed were a blur of homework and final exams.
On the night of his graduation, with his family at his apartment, he stepped out onto his deck for a brief pause, only to be struck by the finality of it all. “I was no longer part of the team, and they would be moving on without me,” he says. “The realization that I was now a retired college basketball player hit me pretty hard.”
Marcus Capers leaves Washington State University with a degree in social services and a minor in communications. This fall will be filled with tryouts for teams, discussions with agents, and networking with the players he’s met along the way. With the right timing, and a bit of luck, he might play in Europe, or maybe even in the NBA. But his long-term goal is still to coach.
“I believe I still have something left for the game,” says Capers. He hopes to be remembered at WSU “as a hard-working, humble guy—who was passionate and respectful about what I did. Not a flashy guy—but one that made the game fun to watch.
“I just wanted to make a mark on the game—to play so hard that people could see how much love I had for the game,” he says. “In some measure, it’s a mark that I was able to give back to WSU—to honor the gift I was given by the Rochestie family.”
Marcus Capers’ career in the WSU record books:
#1 in number of games played—135*
#7 in career minutes—3,447
#13 in blocks—82
#17 in assists—232
#18 in rebounds—537
*Capers missed only one game in his four-year career, a 65-55 victory at Arizona State, Jan. 29, 2009 during his freshman season.
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