By: Anthony Sain ( @ SainAsylum )
When Memphis Tiger freshman point guard Jeremiah Martin made his commitment to the Tigers this spring it came with little to no fanfare. Although the local Mitchell High product was a two-time state champion and was also voted as Mr. Basketball for the state of Tennessee, Martin has not received the hype and expectations that you would expect with a player as accomplished as he is.
Some doubted Martin’s ability to be a quality point guard on a high-level division-one basketball team, partly because of the competition that he faced in high school. Martin played in the Class A division, the smallest division in the state, comprised of schools with lower total enrollees and charter schools with recently formed basketball programs. When asked about his opinion on those who think this way, Martin replied directly.
“I’m not really worried about those people,” said Martin. “I’m just going to play my game regardless. I’m not worried about what nobody has to say. It is what it is as far as what people are going to say. I’ve just got to show those people because it doesn’t matter."
“I’ve been playing at the highest level with my AAU team, (Team Thad) it’s just that I played at a smaller level in high school, but I’m not really worried about what people are saying. It doesn’t make any difference.”
And so far this season for Martin, it hasn’t. Martin has been a bulldog on the court so far this season. He is a one man full court press at times; playing tenacious on ball defense in a fashion that impresses fans and has garnered praise from the University of Memphis coaching staff as well.
“His toughness. His motor. I’ve told everybody that I believe that he will be one of the fan favorites just because of how hard he plays,” said Memphis head coach Josh Pastner. “He has a chance to be a really good player. The more he plays, the better he is going to be.”
Martin has had a great opportunity to prove himself on the court so far this season, averaging 17 minutes per game. He has been called upon early this season do to the fact that senior point guard Kedren Johnson has missed every game so far this season nursing a dislocated shoulder. Johnson was slated to backup Rickey Tarrant Jr., but Martin has seamlessly filled in in his absence.
All has not been easy for Martin, as he admits that there have been things that have made transition from high school to college difficult. He stated that “the physicality or the speed,” were an issue that he initially had to adjust to but also would share what has required the biggest learning curve.
“Switching positions. Having to run the team’” said Martin. “It’s just me having to run the team and be more vocal. I played point guard (in high school) but in my league I really didn’t have to do that much. Coming into a game, I played point guard but it was easy. I could just run past someone or just call a play, and not have to run it fully through like you do in college – through all of your options."
“I had two players with me (at Mitchell) Kylan Phillips and Naba Echols where like if I had a bad game, they could take up the slack and it wouldn’t be any difference, but in college all five guys are good.”
Coach Pastner obviously sees something worth investing in in Martin as he constantly praises his effort and his defense. Martin’s jump shot is improving and he has shown a knack to pick his spots and get to the rim when available. Martin’s early development and ability to get minutes early this season is a bonus being that he will be the most experienced point guard on the roster next year as recent signee Charlie Moore will be the only other point guard on the roster alongside Martin.
“He (Martin) will be what D.J. Stephens was for his four years here,” said Coach Pastner. “That type of talent as in terms of the fan favorite one, and he can help you win a lot of games - just like D.J. did. Maybe not the athleticism, but how hard he plays. He plays so hard and he leaves it all on the floor and he does it through defense.”
Many have suggested that Martin might be one of the next great point guards out of Memphis by the time that his campaign ends. This of course is a bold claim considering some of the names that precede Martin – but a feat that is not overwhelming to the confident freshman. Martin considers it “motivation” to be mentioned amongst former Tiger greats like Penny Hardaway, Elliot Perry, and Andre Turner.
“It’s motivation. Every one of those guys are in the league,” said Martin. “I have good relationships with most of those guys. It’s motivation because you follow in their footsteps. They played in the league and overseas. It’s all just motivation really.”
Martin has several footsteps to follow in the local legends of Tiger Basketball’s past as well as a solid mentor in his life in former high school coach at Mitchell and current Whitehaven Head Coach, Faragi Phillips, whom he credits a lot of his development to, on and off of the court.
“He’s like a father,” said Martin. “He treats me and his son, (former teammate Kylan Phillips) probably equal. It’s a father son relationship with me and Coach Philips. He gives me advice about college and asks how I feel about certain situations.”
“I talk to Coach Phillips everyday, more than likely. I work out with him too. Me and Coach Philips are really close. It’s more than just basketball with me and Coach Phillips. I have known him since probably about the fifth grade. I played on his AAU team one summer.”
Martin is an edgy, hard-nosed kid who plays like he has a chip on his shoulder. His demeanor screams “Memphis Kid” and his confidence and wining attitude fit perfectly with his swagger. Martin wasn’t shy about answering whether or not he felt like he is being slept on our not.
“I do feel like I’m being slept on but that’s the best,” said Martin confidently. “You don’t want to be the person that everyone has high hopes for and you don’t do anything. I’m glad that I’m being slept on because then I can show people more of what I can do. I like being at the bottom. It’s cool.”
On if he feels that him coming from a state-championship winning environment will translate to college
“Yes it will,” said Martin. “My mentality is not going to change. I can make winning plays. With me being a winner I know what to expect for getting a win – little things that count. I can just translate that to me playing with the Tigers.”
On what fans can expect to see from him on the court this season
“They can see me being tough, and defense. Throughout the game being a tough hard-nosed player who will guard anyone on the court. Picking the person up 94 feet, as soon as they get the ball in. Just trying to win basically – doing whatever to get a win this year”
Coach Pastner would agree with this sentiment, which is surely the reason that he decided to offer Martin a scholarship as soon as he de-committed from Louisiana Tech.
“He’s a winner, and I think for Tiger Nation, they get to see this young man for four years. There’s a lot to look forward to with this young man,” said Pastner.