Meridian's Martin putting together breakout year

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 8, 2014 

Meridian's Alex Martin takes a shot against Sehome's Tanner Clark Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, at Sehome high school. Sehome beat Meridian 61-55.

DANNY MILLER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Meridian's Alex Martin, a Midwest-born self-proclaimed Green Bay Packers fan, spent all Super Bowl week promoting an anti-Seahawks message.

He embraces a devil's advocate role, talking up the minority, proving doubters wrong. His knack for effectively representing the unpopular choice during practice or at team outings is so impressive Trojans coach Shane Stacy suggested Martin would make a strong defense lawyer someday.

"I don't know what it is, but something gets into me, and I try to go against the grain," Martin said in a phone interview.

The junior point guard has put together a breakout season this winter, and much like the underdogs he vouches for, it's been a bit unexpected.

How many sophomore JV players move to varsity the next year and become not only the team's leading scorer, but one of the top 10 point producers in the conference?

Martin is averaging a team-high 15.7 points per game and has put together scoring nights of 23, 22, 32, 20 and 24 points while helping Meridian compile a 10-9 overall record. The third-seeded Trojans will host South Whidbey in the first round of the Class 1A Northwest District Tournament on Monday, Feb. 10.

Even though he was a relative unknown on the varsity level, Martin's season hasn't surpassed his own expectations.

"I wouldn't say surprised," he said. "I've always had confidence in myself, and I mean it's more surreal being my first year on varsity to be able to play well."

It was toward the end of Martin's sophomore year when Stacy began realizing how good Martin could be. Martin recalled a JV game when he scored 20 points in the first half, and Stacy said there was a time later in the year when he was the basketball program's seventh or eighth best player.

But Stacy said Martin wasn't quite ready for varsity ball.

"We were heavy in the junior and senior class," Stacy explained. "That left him on the outside looking in, and working hard this offseason he has definitely earned everything he has."

That hard work occurred after school when Martin and teammate Blake Briones would spend an extra hour or two working on their game and in the summer when Martin drew the ire of his coaches with strong play.

And what makes Martin's year even more striking is that he's put up his numbers after spending the entire offseason training to play an off-guard spot.

Martin is one of Meridian's top ball handlers, Stacy said, and the coach asked his junior to run the point early in the season when the Trojans needed him at the position.

Martin never complained, even though he was forced to alter his offensive approach. He's had to be more watchful about shot selection and learned to balance his offensive-running duties with his ability to take over a game using his quick-shot release.

"Playing point guard, you give up the ball and might not get it back," Stacy said. "That's five less shots a game, and he's never said a word about that. He does what his coaches ask him to do. He is an amazing team player, and that symbolizes what all the guys are about."

Stacy described Martin's playing style as "smooth," and his sweet stroke coincides with his seemingly effortless defense.

The Meridian coach was hesitant to make the comparison, but he said Martin's play reminds him of watching Ken Griffey Jr. easily track down fly balls most couldn't get to.

"Sometimes he won't even have a sweat going," Stacy said. "He makes plays others wouldn't make, and he makes it look effortless. He's one of a kind."

Martin, who joked he's been playing basketball since he could walk and probably before then, didn't waste much time establishing himself on the varsity level.

He scored 23 points during Meridian's season-opening win against South Whidbey, but it was three games later when Martin scored his season high that he knew he had arrived.

"It was probably after we played De La Salle during Christmas break," said Martin of his solidifying moment. "I scored 30-plus. That first hit me that this is what I've been waiting to do and be all my life I guess."

Stacy credited Martin's success to his dedication and desire to improve. The Meridian coach also raved about his selflessness and team-first attitude.

The Trojans have become a tight-knit club Martin said "is the most fun group I've ever played basketball with."

"I think Alex's success this year is a product of the amount of time he's put in, and I think what goes overlooked is that this is a guy who could very easily be putting up more shots per game," Stacy said. "He is willing do whatever it takes to make his team successful."

Reach Andrew Lang at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.

Reach ANDREW LANG at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call ext. 862.

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