From Rejection to Acceptance
A Kenyon Martin feature penned during the forward’s time spent in Cincinnati.
Martin’s metamorphosis was complete. Few on the collegiate level could doubt tat he was the best around. But the NBA looks at things differently. Show them the Venus de Milo , and scouts would complain that she couldn’t go to her left. Or right, for that matter. As Martin established himself s the NCAA’s dominant force, people wondered about his potential for the Next Level.
Well, to anyone who questions Martin’s height, shooting range and general ability to block shots of bigger and stronger opponents, we offer the following guarantee: He’s ready. Now. Martin has the athletic ability, the work ethic, the strength, the shot, the desire and the body. What the hell else is there?
Regarding the height issue, Martin says he is 6-8 in his stocking feet, a fact he intends to prove in Chicago this summer when all top prospects are weighed, measured, poked and prodded by NBA types. “I know how tall I am,” he says. The NBA doesn’t seem to be all that worried.
“He’s as big as [Portland power forward] Brian Grant, isn’t he?” Buford asks.
“He stands eye-to-eye with [Chicago rookie star] Elton Brand,” Nash says.
“I’ll give him 6-9,” the Western personnel exec says. “With him, it doesn’t make any difference, because he’s got long arms and is very, very athletic.”
So much for that. Forget about the shooting concerns, too. Martin doesn’t have three-point range, but he can hit the mid-level jumper. That’s plenty for a power forward. “His offense has improved,” Nash says. “I think we’ve seen over the last few years, how players who didn’t start with great offensive skills became major factors for their teams. Look at Bo Outlaw and Jerome Williams.”
Then there is the heart of the Kenyon Martin package, his willingness to improve and unquenchable desire to succeed. Whatever NBA team gets him will receive an immediate boost in the heart department. They won’t have to worry about this practice habits. After shooting 8-for-18 from the line in a mid-February game against Houston, Martin was the first one in the gym the next day. He parked himself at the line and began to shoot free throws. “I’m willing to try anything to get better,” he says. “If it doesn’t fit me, I’ll disregard it. If it can help me, I’ll do it. I’m coachable. I’ll listen and pay attention.”
Pardon the NBA folks for wiping away a tear of joy. If Martin does just half the stuff he claims to, he deserves a parade on the day he shows up for training camp. You’re coachable? You’ll pay attention? Are there any more like you at home, son?
“He’s a miniature Alonzo Mourning,” one NBA scout says. “He’s the kind of kid who doesn’t have to be asked to work hard in practice or to compete. He has a competitive chip on his shoulder. It’s guesswork with a lot of kids about how hard they’ll work on their competitiveness. With him, that’s a given.”
So, look at Martin as the number one pick, a couple slots later at worst. He doesn’t really care where he goes. For a guy who didn’t think about The League until his freshman year of college, this is all a dream. No matter where he’s drafted, Martin will stand tall, put on the cap and smile. When he does that, all those earnest souls who watched him scowl his way through games might jut be surprised. Martin can smile—and not some sinister grin, either. “When I’m on the court, it’s business,” he says. “Off the court, I’m a totally different person. People say that I look mean, and then they find out I’m not.”
Don’t be so upset at those who are surprised, Kenyon. Shot blockers don’t always seem so nice. Then again, there’s more to people than what we see on television.
A lot more.
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