Player Preview: Justin Martin

USA TODAY Sports

Justin Martin is capable of both overpowering offense and staggering stretches of apparent apathy. Is there any way to predict which version will show up this year?

If it seems like a long time ago that Justin Martin showed up on the Xavier radar, that's because it is. An ESPN100 recruit in high school, he spent a year at a prep school trying (unsuccessfully) to get his transcript in order for NCAA eligibility. After spending that redshirt year practicing with the team (to rave reviews, one might add), he debuted with mixed results in his freshman season. It feels like every successive season is a pivotal one for Martin, but this year's really might be. As a junior on a squad with a lot of young, perimeter talent waiting in the wings, time is running out for the languid wing to make his mark on the program.

At his best, Justin Martin is a dynamic second scorer. Through the season's first eight games last year, he was putting up 12.4 PPG while grabbing 5.5 boards per contest. With his jumper working (13-28 from deep in that stretch), he is a tough guard, and his length and leaping ability make him a good finisher around the rim and a difficult matchup on the glass. He was averaging a steal per game while keeping his fouls (with the exception of the Purdue game) and turnovers in check. It's hard to say if the concussion he suffered against Vandy was the catalyst to the change in his output after it, but it's hard to see where it did him any good.

In the next 12 games after he sat out against Kent State, Martin averaged under 5 points and just over 4 rebounds and the team lost seven times. He was a gruesome 1-20 from three-point range and 12-52 overall from the floor. Worse than those numbers - which are bad enough on their own - Martin seemed either lost or disinterested when out on the floor. The team was too shallow for it to really show up in his minutes, but Xavier needed another perimeter scorer, and Martin wasn't able to answer the bell.

Best case scenario: Martin shows up looking sharp from day one and never fades. Noted for his ability to score in bunches when he came out of high school, he gets back to being aggressive and confident on the offensive end. His highly-touted shooting stroke comes to the fore, forcing defenses to respect him enough that he can run by his man on the perimeter. His leanness means he'll never be a dominant rebounder, but he rebounds well out of his area thanks to having a skill set that puts smaller men on him and a leaping ability and reach that allow him to get to a lot of balls. He goes for 13 and 6 with the odd game he just takes over, shoots efficiently, and provides great spacing on the offensive end. Defensively, he uses his length to his advantage and creates chaos in the passing lanes without committing quite so many dumb fouls.

Worst case scenario: Too talented to be outright bad, Martin instead frustrates Xavier fans with perpetual inconsistency. Despite his physical gifts, he drifts in and out of games, spending too much time as a non-entity or negative contributor. The confidence he needs to succeed is irrevocably shaken, and he lacks the assertiveness to play himself into games. If he makes his first bucket, he'll occasionally pick up 10 or 12, but too often he makes you wonder why he isn't doing more. Defensively, he slaps too much, moves too little, and occasionally makes you wonder if he realizes what his assignment is. He averages 6.5 and 3.5 and wins the inaugural Jeff Robinson Memorial Award for the guy who generates the most angry texts from my dad.

Most likely scenario: To say it's impossible to predict with a player like Martin would be both exactly true and a staggering cop-out, so I'm going to take my best shot at it. With Christon and Philmore seeming like known quantities and Matt Stainbrook possibly providing big numbers, Martin settles into a fourth banana role that more suits his temperament. With the pressure to carry the load situated solidly elsewhere, he shows up on scouting reports and is a threat to teams who are determined not to let Xavier's other talent beat them. Comfortable with that role, Martin occasionally absolutely blows up when he is on but is able to defer to the players around him when he doesn't have it. He goes for 9 and 5.5, has at least a couple of games where he looks unstoppable, and generally is responsible with fewer objects being thrown across rooms than he was last season.

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