Kevin Martin is finding success in the NBA

Entering his third season in the NBA, former Catamount Kevin Martin has displayed the abilities and intangibles that are necessary to stick in the pros. Martin has been tearing up the Las Vegas Summer League and has so far led the Sacramento King’s summer team to a 3-1 record. He has been the best player in Las Vegas this summer and looks to keep his play at a high level when the regular season starts. Martin is currently third in the summer league in scoring as he is averaging 22.8 points per game. Martin is averaging this number while only taking about 12 shots a game and still pulling down six and a half rebounds. The 6’7″ Martin is slashing to the basket and taking on all comers as he shows rookies what it takes to succeed in the league. On July 9, Martin was named the Las Vegas Summer League Player-of-the-Day as he scored 27 points and grabbed 7 boards in an 86-79 win over the Toronto Raptors. Martin put up 20 of those points from the free throw line as he showed up this year’s first overall pick, the Raptors’ Andrea Bargnani. After averaging 24.9 points per game in college, the Sacramento Kings drafted Martin in the first round (26th overall) of the 2004 draft. Martin struggled to get playing time as a rookie and only appeared in 45 of the King’s 82 games and averaged 10 minutes and 3 points. The Kings then drafted college All-American Francisco Garcia in the 2005 draft putting Martin’s role on the team in question. With both players poised to battle for the starting shooting guard spot, the Kings then brought in stand-out veteran Bonzi Wells. Martin’s second season looked as if it might be much of the same. That is where Martin’s star has started to ascend. Instead of becoming the third wing, Martin beat out Garcia and then had only the veteran Wells in his way. Wells suffered through an injury-filled 2005 season and Martin got his opportunity to play. Martin proved he had every bit of the scoring ability he had in college as he averaged 10.8 points per game while playing in 72 games last season. Martin only started 41 of those games. The bright spots were not finished for Martin as he played even better in the playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs. In six playoff games, Martin averaged 13 points and 5 rebounds while only starting one of the six games. In game three of the series, Martin actually hit a buzzer beater to win the game. With just a few seconds left on the clock, the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili was stripped of the ball by the Kings’ Mike Bibby. Bibby looked ahead and tossed the ball to Martin who hit a twisting lay-up at the buzzer to win the game. Martin finished with only 10 points and 6 rebounds in the game but cemented his status in the NBA. When asked about the shot, the Spurs’ superstar center Tim Duncan said, “I don’t even know how he got it off, honestly. I think he shot it with his left hand. I went after his right hand, thinking he was going to float it with the time going down like that, but somehow he got it up there and it stayed up there on the rim and went in. It was just a great shot, a great effort by those guys to turn a turnover into a fast-break that quickly and get it to the rim.” While Duncan did not know how Martin got the shot off, many people probably did not even know who Martin was or how he got a shot at an NBA career. Now that Bonzi Wells looks to be on the move, though, the Kings are looking to hand the starting job over to Martin. With a consistent starting job, Martin may become one of the brightest young stars in the NBA and a name that many people will know. Whatever happens from here, though, it is obvious that Martin will have made a university proud, and in Cullowhee we will always know who he is, how he got that shot off, and how he got his shot at the NBA.