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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Leader of the (Seawolf) Pack

Ten minutes before practice begins, the six hoops in Pritchard Gymnasium are occupied by twelve players from the men’s basketball team. The sounds of basketballs being dribbled on the court, swished through the basket, and clanged off the rim can all be heard simultaneously. But then you can hear Chris Martin’s voice above those noises.

“Let’s go, bring it in!” he yells.

The basketballs are dropped, and the players start clapping their hands while walking towards the center of the court. A sea of red forms a circle around the Stony Brook logo, and again you can hear his voice.

“Let’s have a good one today,” he says. “We know what we have to do, so let’s go out and do it.”

Practice begins, and Martin (Springfield Gardens, N.Y.), the only senior on the team, goes through the drills with the enthusiasm and intensity of a freshman trying out for the first time.

The team starts with a layup line, and the tallest players soar to the basket for slam dunks. Martin, who is one of the shortest players on the team listed at 6′ 1″, is up next. He runs hard to the hoop and then–seemingly walking on air–he rises above the rim for a two-handed slam.

“When I was younger I was lighter,” he said with a laugh. “I first dunked when I was in the ninth grade, so I’ve always been a strong leaper.”

Next is the five-on-five drill, and Martin’s voice is  louder than ever.

“Swing! Swing!” “I got the rebound!” “Baseline! Baseline!” “That’s your man!” “I got your help!”

He is very energetic and enthusiastic: defending as if he were playing against a rival, clapping after every shot is made, diving for every loose ball near him.

“When I’m on the court I feel like it’s my time to have fun,” Martin said. “I just clear my mind from everything else. When I’m in between the lines, it’s just basketball and nothing can distract me.”

After two hours of running and competing (and yelling), practice is over. Martin steps off the court and it’s as though he is a different person: he walks slowly and is very soft-spoken. Junior roommate Dallis Joyner (Norfolk, Va.) said it’s as though he saves all his energy for practice and games.

Last season, Martin put together his best season as a Seawolf, averaging 10.8 points per game and scoring in double-figures 20 times. The team was 13-4 with him in the starting lineup, yet he was a player who somewhat flew under the radar.

“I’m not worried about getting attention,” he said. “It’s all about the team; I’m not worried about anything else. I just want to win.”

Martin was named the only captain on the team this season.

“We look up to him as our leader,” said sophomore Preye Preboye (Springfield, Mass.). “He’s a great teammate, but he’s also a great friend.”

Coming out of Christ the King High School, one of the top high school basketball programs in New York, Martin’s athleticism and toughness caught head coach Steve Pikiell’s attention and led to his recruitment.

“He brings an energy and swagger to the team,” Pikiell said. “I’m hoping for him to have the kind of senior year he deserves to have.”

Martin was redshirted his freshman year, so this is his fifth year at Stony Brook. Pikiell stressed that the player Martin was in his first year is nothing compared to the player he is today.

“You had to see Chris as a freshman to really know how far he’s come,” Pikiell said. “It just goes to show the things he can accomplish if he puts his mind to it and works.”

It was never a given. “When I first came here, I thought my talent was going to set me apart from everyone, so I never worked on my game,” Martin said. “I realized that I had to work harder and get better if I really wanted to be a good player.”

Not only did his attitude change on the court, it changed academically as well. Martin said he started focusing more on his schoolwork when he realized he needed to start thinking of a career in something other than basketball. He will be graduating in December with a Bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies.

“He’s come a long way academically,” said Pikiell. “I’m really proud that he’s graduating this year.”

“It’s really exciting to see his growth and change in attitude,” said Courtney Sanfelippo.

“Academics weren’t at the top of his priority list when he first came here. But now you can see he’s excited about earning a college degree.”

Sanfelippo is the Assistant Director of Athletics for Student-Athlete Development.

She oversees the academic careers and personal development of Stony Brook’s student-athletes. She said her relationship with Martin has grown from him seeing her as someone he simply had to see–a nuisance even–in his first year to him voluntarily meeting with her and staying late for tutoring on Sundays.

“She’s a great person,” he said of Sanfelippo. “Without her I probably wouldn’t be on the court.”

While he is still deciding whether or not he will attend graduate school next year, Martin said he loves kids and hopes to someday become a teacher. He also said he wants to coach high school basketball so he can prepare the players for college by sharing his experiences with them.

One experience that shaped the person Martin is today was the passing of his father, who died Feb. 19, 2009 after a long battle with cancer.

“He taught me how to be a man,” he said. “I always feel his presence. I know he’s always here with me.”

Months after the sadness of his father’s death came joy: his son Nikolas was born Nov. 28, 2009.

“It’s a blessing to have a son,” he said with a smile. “It helps me a lot because now I can fill my father’s role. I can teach my son what my father taught me.”

Martin said he is confident about this upcoming year, noting the improvement of the underclassmen and the talent level of the newcomers. When asked if the team can repeat the success of last year, he replied with confidence: “Why not?”

Last year the Seawolves won the America East Regular Season Championship and played in the National Invitation Tournament, the program’s first-ever postseason appearance. Martin, however, has bigger goals for this season.

“I don’t want to leave college basketball without making it to the NCAA Tournament,” he said. “I don’t care what I have to do, I will do anything in my power to get us there.”

And the rest of the team doesn’t want him to leave without an NCAA Tournament appearance either.

“He chose to come back another year, so we don’t want it to be for no reason,” said Joyner. “He wants to make history here, so we want to send him off with something he will remember for the rest of his life.”

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