Last week, reports came out that SMU basketball coach Larry Brown was a serious candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers head-coaching job. However, while media rumors swirled surrounding the 73-year-old Hall of Famer, Brown was busy doing some recruiting for the Mustangs.
At the time, the player he was targeting was Xavier transfer Justin Martin. The 6-foot-6 sharpshooter was on campus for a visit with assistant coach K.T. Turner and decided to pull the trigger on committing to the Mustangs when he met with Brown.
"It's a second to none feeling," Martin said. "Coach Brown is a legendary coach. I wanted to broaden my game and my network. I really wanted to utilize the options that I had and be able to go somewhere I can make an impact on a team and win."
With this addition, the Mustangs are now considered one of the deepest and most talented teams in the country for next season. They will most likely be a preseason top-15 team and could even crack the top-10.
"My goal is to win a national championship," Martin said. "It's two seasons within a season. First, we got to win the regular season and the conference season. After that, we'll worry about the tournament season."
"We got to worry about each one at a time, but my ultimate goal is win a national championship."
"To be honest, it's a blessing. With his experience, teaching, and knowledge, I know I can get to the next level," Martin said. "I have him behind me now, pushing me, coaching me, and mentoring me everyday. It's also about more than just basketball. It's life. He is a really good man. Everybody respects him. I've never heard anything bad about Coach Brown."
Martin is also excited about the potential of the up-and-coming Mustangs roster. He knew the team had won exactly 27 games last year, second most in team history, and believes they can do even better next season with more experience.
"I was really intrigued by the pieces around me that are returning and will be contributing. We are going to have a really, really good and deep team," Martin said. "I feel like we can win that much more with the experience coming back and my added experience coming in. As far as winning and being around a lot of talent, I feel like it was a great opportunity."
Martin, who has played in two NCAA tournaments, says SMU assistant coach K.T. Turner did a good job building a relationship with him and "staying on him" throughout the process.
"I talked to coach KT Turner a lot. He's a really good dude," Martin said. "Him and Coach Brown called me often to check up on me. We talked about basketball here and there, but we also talked about a lot of other things. They both really recruited me hard."
Martin averaged 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game this past season, when Xavier went 21-13 and lost to NC State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. As the team's second leading scorer, Martin shot 45 percent from the field, 37 percent from beyond the arc and 77 percent from the foul line while playing 28.2 minutes per game. He posted double figures in 18 games, including 16 of 20 Big East contests, and had 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds against Creighton. As a graduate student, he won't have to sit out a season.
"I wouldn't feel comfortable saying what type of role I should play. That's up to Coach Brown to decide. I know I'm going to be similar to the player that I've been in the past but even better with another year of experience under my belt," Martin said. "I just play the game. I'll be aggressive and assertive when I need to enforce things. I'll also be a good teammate. That's what I feel like my role is: being a good teammate and being a leader on the team. Keeping the team together on the court and in the locker-room."
Martin said his strengths are his outside shooting and rebounding. He hopes to become a better ball handler and improve his assist to turnover ratio, but says playing next to somebody like five-star point guard Emmanuel Mudiay should help.
"I have watched a few of his mixtapes and highlight films. He seems like he would be an exciting player to play with," Martin said. "He is explosive and a great passer. He seems like a good dude and good teammate. I haven't met him yet, but I'm looking forward to it."
Martin is originally from Indianapolis and began his high school career at Lawrence North (IN) before playing at Mountain State Academy (WV). His father, Brad, played at Oklahoma Southwestern and his cousin, Maurice Evans, played for the Washington Wizards. Martin committed to Xavier as a four-star and the No. 87 recruit in the class of 2011 after averaging 15.9 points and 6.9 rebounds his senior year of high school.
"My decision to transfer from Xavier was a long, thought-out out process filled with prayer," Martin said. "I spent four years at Xavier. I set out to get my degree and I did that. I decided to leave just because I wanted to have a better opportunity to play my game and really learn under Coach Brown."
Martin is at home right now, but says he will be back in Dallas for the second session of workouts that begin on July 7th. After that, he hopes to remain in Dallas the rest of the summer to work on his game and get familiar with his new teammates.
"I meet a lot of my teammates when I was there for the visit last week," Martin said. "I saw the whole SMU campus and a little bit of the surrounding neighborhoods. I liked it a lot. I just can't wait to get started."