Player Preview: Justin Martin

Reports coming out of the Xavier camp last year indicated that there were times that partial qualifier Justin Martin was the best player in practice. That's lofty praise on a team that included the notorious work ethic of Tu Holloway, the athletic ability of Mark Lyons, and fellow redshirt Travis Taylor, who already had one monster D-1 season in his rear view before transferring. Martin had come out of Mountain State Academy as a 6'6", 205lb wing with a silky jumper and a ranking in the top 100 of every meaningful scouting service. His performance in Xavier's practices was only foreshadowing of his tremendous potential.
 
Martin earned his ranking on the back of a silky-smooth jumper with seemingly limitless range. His first three high school seasons were spent at Lawrence North in Indy, where he posted just over 10 PPG as a junior. His final year in high school was spent at Mountain State, where his game began to blossom. He put up 16 and 7 as a senior there, adding improved rebounding and ball skills to his already impressive shooting ability. Martin also won praise from various sources regarding his feel for the game, especially his knack for working himself into scoring position without the ball in his hands.

One of the few negatives attached to Martin during his recruiting period was a perception that his attitude could use a little adjustment. Some scouts thought that he played without urgency and that he could check out from time to time. His coach at Mountain State, however, went out of his way to laud both Martin's maturity and his leadership on the court as the team's captain. Coach Mack commented on his high basketball IQ, and there was little to nothing in the way of reservations about his approach during his redshirt season. It would seem that - after having to sit out a year - Martin is ready to put his considerable skills into play for Xavier.
 
Best case:
Justin comes ready to play from the word go and offers Xavier a reliable third scoring option from the perimeter. His range translates directly to the college game, and the presence of Cheek and Tu at the guard positions and Big Kenny down low keeps teams from being able to help to him or double him on the drive. He uses his length and athletic ability to help out on the glass and on defense, and Coach Mack has found his starter at the three. With a year in the system under his belt, Martin slides in like a veteran and is Xavier's most productive perimeter freshman since Stanley Burrell.
 
Worst case: Martin's game depends more on rhythm than pure athleticism, and - with the presence of Cheek and Tu at the guard positions and Big Kenny down low - he has trouble shooting himself into games. Dez Wells' linear attack and Andre Walker's versatility suit the third perimeter role better than adding another scorer, so Martin finds himself on the bench for long stretches of the game. His talent ultimately shows up when he does get minutes, but his numbers don't reflect his highly-touted status or the fact that he is in his second year at X.
 
Most likely: Martin will probably get early chances to prove that he is the answer at the three, especially considering he has more time in the system than Wells or Walker. With more depth than he's accustomed to, Coach Mack will be able to keep a tighter rein on Martin, but it's a known fact that talent plays. His ability to get buckets in a variety of ways is unmatched by anyone challenging him for time. It's likely that Coach Mack won't see the need to start scorers at each of the three perimeter positions, so look for Martin to get minutes as instant offense while one of the starting guards gets an opportunity to catch his breath.
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