What was your favorite Josh Martin moment? Was it his season high 15 minutes against Franklin Pierce? Maybe it was the lone three-pointer he missed against Western Kentucky. The two blocks against St. John’s? Are these even ringing a bell?
On Monday, without the courtesy to even tell his teammates that he was on his way out, Josh Martin made the heavy decision to call it quits at the University of Minnesota and head to greener pastures. Life, I guess, was so unbearable on an up and coming Big Ten team that he decided to forego pretty much an entire year of eligibility, development and maturity by untying his shoes, packing his bags and heading off into the NCAA sunset. The glue holding his locker room nameplate had barely dried before he decided that this was the best course of action.
The Gophers have had plenty of transfers in recent years, even ones that ended in turmoil. Joe Coleman left; Wally Ellenson left; what’s-his-face went to Michigan State. Those sucked, but they had their reasons. Coleman was caught up in a coaching change, Ellenson had weird family issues, and the other guy didn’t hesitate to level up. But it’s this one that really irks me, and I’m not really sure why.
I think it’s the virtual short-sightedness of it all and the manner in which it was carried out. Part of me is just in disbelief that a guy who found himself on a major basketball program, as one of the few warm bodies on a thin frontcourt would even dream of walking away. He was a literal break away from being forced into prime time, simply as a necessity. On a team that employs Joey King as its starting PF, Martin was essentially the only true power forward on the team. Yes, the only one.
But mostly I think the reasoning is just ridiculous. If playing time was an issue, fine, I get it. No one likes to sit on the bench, especially when they’re used to being the only show in town. But this is big time basketball. Minutes aren’t just handed out like candy. And raw freshmen, even those with incredible potential, have to earn their stripes. Heck, even Andre Hollins started out playing 10, 11 minutes per game. Imagine if he’d walked away after just eight games.
In the few minutes that he did play, Martin just didn’t show he belonged out there yet, and nothing on the court warranted additional minutes. But that didn’t mean they weren’t in the offing; it’s just that more minutes are part of the development arc. That’s the game.
Mostly, though, it’s the whole leaving-your-teammates-out-to-dry thing eight games into the season that gets me. That’s just bad business no matter how you slice it. You committed to this program. No one expects you to stay for four years, but to leave them high and dry after eight games? Come on, man.
Look. Everyone has their own reasons for going to school, leaving school, taking breaks from basketball … whatever. Martin has his own life to worry about. But there are right and wrong ways to go about it. And sneaking out the backdoor in the middle of the season is definitely not the right way.
If he’s looking for additional playing time, I hope he finds a program that will grant his wish and just dole it out, but something tells me any program worth its salt (and presumably one where Martin wants to play) isn’t just going to throw a big PF out there, no questions asked. Now he has to not only find a D-II or JUCO program to finish out the year, but he’s losing an entire year of eligibility, time that he could spend at a high level developing into the player everyone was excited for this summer. Deandre Mathieu is a JUCO success story, but that path is fraught with uncertainty. So, you know, the whole bird-in-the-hand thing is kind of a big deal.
In the end, it’s frustrating for both sides, and it’s just a bummer it wasn’t handled a little differently and a little more maturely.