"Time," the hymn writer said, "like an ever-flowing stream, bears all its sons away." In the same vein, summer continues its inexorable march toward November, when the collegiate basketball season begins anew. Here at Banners, we continue to work away behind the scenes to be able to provide you the most complete free Xavier coverage anywhere on the internet once the season begins. The Xavier players spend their summers working almost as hard to hone and refine their talents for the four-month stretch in which they will matter most.
We've already discussed how Dee Davis would benefit from working on adding some weight and tightening up his shooting mechanics and how Brad Redford can use another year of distance from his ACL surgery to regain quickness and his basketball IQ to expand his impact on the game. We'll pick up today with enigmatic forward Justin Martin.
Martin came into Xavier with some fanfare. He was a highly-rated G/F out of a well-regarded prep school in Mountain State Academy. He had a reputation as a player who could fill it up with aplomb from just about anywhere, and his length (6'6") and scoring numbers (15 PPG on a squad with a number of scoring options) had Musketeer fans excited for his impending arrival on the Cintas Center hardwood. Unfortunately - and despite the year at prep school - Martin's transcripts weren't quite in order and he ended up sitting out the 2010-2011 season as a partial qualifier.
When Martin finally got onto the court last year, he didn't exactly light the world on fire. He followed respectable showings against Morgan State and IPFW with 2 points against Miami of Ohio and a gruesome 0-4/0-2/0-6 shooting line against Georgia, though he did contribute six boards and three steals to that game. He followed that with a string of respectable but not noteworthy games through the Crosstown Shootout.
Martin's real problems last year didn't come from a lack of ability but rather a lack of consistently perceptible pathos. He would follow up games like LBSU and Hawai'i (averaged 10/6.5/1.5, shot 8-16/4-9/0-0) with back-to-back goose eggs against Southern Illinois and Gonzaga. He bottomed out in the first game of 2012, grabbing a DNP-CD against La Salle. Despite his early-season assertion that he would do whatever it took to get on the court, he spent plenty of time in Coach Mack's doghouse instead.
Another thing to consider about Martin is that, after a year at prep school and another year in a red shirt as a partial qualifier, he is in his fourth year out of high school this season. At the same age as many seniors, it's not out of the question that Martin be asked to make a big leap forward this year or risk falling into that Jeff Robinson Zone of talented, languid player who never seem to pay out on their potential.
The first step forward for Martin is to play in attack mode this summer. He has the talent to make an impact on a game both offensively and defensively, but too often seemed content last year to let the game come to him. Martin's length and athletic ability can make him a terror on the glass and in the passing lanes, and his shooting stroke is a more than viable weapon for stretching defenses. The number one gap in Martin's game is consistently apparent drive to use his myriad gifts to their fullest extent.
Martin also had a tendency to rush things when the pressure is on. This shows up especially at the free throw line where - despite assurances from the coaching staff that he could hit them in practice - he shot an abysmal 35.7% last year. Coach Mack should line the cheerleaders up on the baseline and make Martin shoot free throws in just his boxers and gym shoes while his teammates hit him in the back with pool noodles until he can block out everything that's happening around him and just focus on doing what he knows how to do.
You'll know it's working when: Martin looks at ease on the floor without looking like he's asleep. If Justin is grabbing the ball and using his length and offensive ability to score and positioning himself in the action on the glass on both ends of the floor, he'll be a big asset to Xavier. He also seemed to feed off of his defensive hot streaks last year; more patrolling the passing lanes with his considerable wingspan will also serve to put Martin on the court more and on the pine less.
You should worry if: Despite being older than almost everyone on the team, Martin drifts through games like he's just at Xavier for a free education and to hang out with people who have similar interests. Coach Mack demonstrated last year that he wasn't afraid to bury Martin on the bench. Dez Wells probably has not gotten any more ready to give away his minutes this season that he was last; a half-hearted effort from Martin will find him getting the same minutes as Matt Stainbrook is.