Oct. 25, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON - In Marshall's longing to go where it hasn't for 26 basketball seasons - the NCAA Tournament - there is someone with big-time connections to the Herd who certainly knows the Road to the Final Four.
Marshall sophomore guard Chris Martin said he speaks two or three times a week to the man. The 6-foot Martin doesn't make a big deal about his ties to hoops greatness, but he could.
The guy is his dad, Bill Martin.
"My dad has been very helpful to me, especially when I'm going through the rough times, in a slump, last year here not playing very much," Martin said Tuesday before the Herd's practice. "That's because a lot of stuff I went through, he went through."
The elder Martin was a 6-foot-7 forward who played four seasons (1980-81 through '84-85) for storied Georgetown teams, as a teammate and classmate of Basketball Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing. Martin, a key defender and rebounder on those GU teams, still ranks second in career games played (142) for the Hoyas, one fewer than Ewing.
Martin's teams were 121-23, with three NCAA championship game appearances, winning the title over Houston at Seattle's Kingdome in 1984. As a senior, Martin was an All-Big East second team pick. And his last college game was one of the more storied ones in NCAA history - and I remember it well, since it was the first of 11 Final Fours that I have covered from press row.
In the 1985 Final Four that included three Big East teams, eighth-seeded Villanova slowed it down and upset the mighty Hoyas at Rupp Arena - where the younger Martin goes with the Herd to face defending NCAA champion Kentucky on Dec. 22.
Last season for the Herd, freshman Martin played only 73 minutes in 18 games, averaging 1.3 points. He figures much more prominently for Coach Tom Herrion's third MU team this season, perhaps starting at the point and playing plenty at the two as well.
"I feel like Coach wants me to handle the ball, take care of it, limit turnovers, play defense and make shots," Martin said. "I think I'm going to play a mixture of both (positions), but I really don't know where I'll be more yet. It will probably be where I'm more comfortable, wherever I'm doing best is where they'll put me. So far, I'm playing two as much as at one (point)."
After jumping into the Herd's recruiting picture late after starring in one season at St. Patrick's High in New Jersey - he had transferred there from St. John's College High in Washington, D.C. - Martin tried to be patient in his limited role.
"I had a senior point guard (Damier Pitts) in front of me who had a name for himself and he was very good," Martin said. "I knew I was going to have to learn from him and wasn't going to come in and play a lot right away.
"And I'm actually glad I went through that experience, because I learned a lot and it humbled me. As far as the system we run, I think it's great even though I didn't play that much. I can shoot, and it's designed for me to get shots, and I have unselfish teammates. I can make plays and the offense is spread out, so this system is great for me."
His father played three seasons in the NBA (second-round draft pick) and now works in sales and consulting for a Toyota dealership in Hagerstown, Md., and coaches AAU basketball on occasion.
He scored 1,308 points and had 740 rebounds in his Hoyas' career, and started as a sophomore and senior. But as a freshman and a top 25 recruit from McKinley Tech in Washington, D.C., he averaged 11 minutes as a backup to Mike Hancock, and during Martin's junior year, he went back to reserve status as Coach John Thompson turned to freshmen Reggie Williams and Michael Graham.
"It's a different era," the Herd guard said when asked about getting fatherly advice. "We might have longer shorts and different shoes and stuff, but it's still the same game, and still college basketball.
"My dad went through similar struggles at times. Of course, he was there with Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, but he and I can still relate.
"I didn't learn a whole lot from him on the game, since we played different positions in basketball terms, but I have as far as attitudes, being respectful, being a good person, having good character, stuff like that. My mom put a whole lot of that in me, too. She taught me if you have good character, everything will fall into place."
Martin's mom, Janice Jackson, was a high school basketball star in Mercersburg, Pa. When he left home (Upper Marlboro, Md.) to live with family during his final high school year in New Jersey, he and his mom were both impacted in what turned out to be a positive way..
""It really prepared me for college and it built my character," Martin said. "It helped build my character and matured me, and I enjoyed it. It was a real cool with my teammates and I'm happy I made that move.
"It got me ready for being away from home and coming here, and it helped my mom, because I'm my mom's only child, and my parents are separated, so it got her ready for me being away, too."
Martin said he liked Marshall doing early recruiting, but then Herrion and Co. signed the guard who would become his campus roommate, DeVince Boykins. So, Martin had an alphabet-soup of sorts he listed as his top suitors - VCU, UAB and TCU.
When VCU then took another guard commitment, the Herd got back in touch with Martin and he signed in the spring of 2011 after Herrion "came into my home and met with my mom and me and made it sound like a good fit for me."
Martin said that in those talks with his father a couple of times a week, they often discuss games during the season, but the Herd guard gets more from the ex-Hoyas' player when the dialog goes off the floor.
"Basically, he had some people in front of him when he got to Georgetown," Martin said. "You know, that's a really big-time program and they had good players then, just like we had good players when I got here.
"He told me to work hard in practice, be respectful and learn from what they do, good and bad, and then try to translate it into my game. That's what I did with (2011-12 seniors and 1,000-point career scorers) Pitts and Shaq Johnson last year. Watch how they played defense, how they come off screens, how to run plays. I learned a lot."