Q&A with new Gophers recruit Martin

Minnesota Daily sports reporter Jace Frederick spoke with three-star recruit Josh Martin late Monday night.

Jace Frederick

Richard Pitino nabbed his first recruit of the Class of 2014 on Monday afternoon when three-star forward Josh Martin committed to Minnesota.

I spoke with Martin, a 6-foot-8-inch forward from Seattle, Wash., on Monday night, and it was hard not to be impressed by his confident, mature demeanor.

Here’s what he said:

Q: You were down to three schools: the Gophers, Florida State and Pittsburgh. What was the deciding factor that pushed you toward Minnesota?

Martin: “I just felt like I had a better connection when I was down in Minnesota. I was able to hang out with most of the guys I’d be playing with, and that connection is important — not only on the court, but off the court. I could really see myself playing with those guys and I could see myself hanging with those guys off the court. Because you know I’m going to be spending four years there, and I want to like the guys I’m playing with. That’s not to say I don’t like the guys at Pitt or the guys at Florida State because they’re all great. I just felt like I had a better connection with those at Minnesota.”

Q: Any specific guys that you seemed to connect with?

Martin: “Joey King. He was my host and he definitely showed me around and he’s the kind of kid who’s got the same mentality as me in terms of basketball. He’s got the same mentality in terms of off-the-court, he keeps his nose clean, he’s a good kid, and he just loves playing the game of basketball. It was easy connecting with a kid like that. That was definitely one of those guys where I could definitely see myself playing with this guy and hanging with this guy off the court.”

Q: When you visited here, obviously Minneapolis is a pretty big city, did that have anything to do with it?

Martin: “Ever since I was little, I always told my momma I wanted to play in a place where I’ve got a city kind of atmosphere. I’m not the country-kind of kid that you’ve got nothing within a few hours this way or that way. But it played only a small role in my decision. It’s cool that you’re next to a major city with a bunch of fortune-500 companies, but that doesn’t denote what the college is going to do for you.”

Q: How do you think you’re going to fit into Minnesota’s system and how did Pitino explain that system to you?

Martin: “I think I’m going to fit in perfectly. I’m a combination [small forward and power forward], and that’s what they need. They need a guy who can pick-and-pop and a guy who can get the ball at 15 feet and go to work. [I’m] a guy who can get boards and a guy who can bring the heart and the hustle every day. And that’s the kind of person that I am. Pitino’s told me about how I’m going to be used and he told me I’m going to be a four-man who’s going to pick-and-pop and make decisions with the ball on the perimeter. That’s what I think I can do. I can be their inside-out guy, and he told me he can work with me every day to develop my outside skills, and that was one of the main attractions to me. It’s not very common that the head coach will work with the players personally, let alone with individual stuff during the season.

Q: Does it mean anything extra to you to be Pitino’s first commit in his first recruiting class here?

Martin: “That’s a cool thing. Hopefully I can take that, when he’s the next Pitino in the Hall of Fame I can say, ‘Yeah I was the first guy to commit. I was the first commit in the 2014 class.’ It’s definitely a cool thing to be, to be labeled as his first commit, his first recruit, but I’m not going to say that’s one of the reasons I decided. I already knew he was a great coach … It’s definitely cool to be one of those first guys, because when he leaves his legacy, they always will talk about what happened first, and they’ll be talking about me, and hopefully whoever else comes in with me.”

Q: You talked a little bit about yourself being a three or a four. In the Big Ten, what do you see yourself playing more of? Do you see yourself as more of a four-guy or more of a three-guy playing on the perimeter?

Martin: “I’d like to be able to tell you, but honestly, I’m just a player. I’ll do whatever’s needed that night. If we’re playing against a big team and I’ve got to take a bigger dude off the dribble, then that’s what I’m going to do. If we’re playing a smaller team, then I can bang down low and get some buckets inside, that’s what I’ll do. And if we need rebounds that night, that’s what I’ll do. I’m not the kind of guy who will impose his will on offense, because that’s just not the kind of person I am. I pride myself on defense. I’m the guy who, on offense, whatever you need me to do, I’ll do it, but on defense, I’m going to just make sure that what needs to get done gets done.”

Q: A lot of people know that you’re a versatile guy, especially with your length, but is there a certain college or NBA guy right now that you shape your game after?

Martin: “There’s no one that I really try to shape my game after, but there is a few guys who I kind of see myself playing as. I kind of see myself like Kawhi Leonard a little bit — a lanky, tall player who’s got some ball-handling skills, but is also athletic and he can get that turnaround jumper, but is athletic enough to take it off the dribble and dunk on people. I kind of see myself like that. A little bit like Josh Smith, for the Pistons now — athletic, can hit threes, take the ball off the dribble.”

Q: Have you talked to coach Pitino today? How did that go?

Martin: “Yeah I talked to him after school today. I called him and told him the good news and it went really well. He was excited and it was cool to hear his voice on the other end, the excitement he had. It was a good conversation we had.” 

Q: Now that you’re the first one, obviously there’s a few more open scholarships at the U for 2014. Are you kind of hoping to draw some guys to come play with you?

Martin: “I’m hoping. I’m definitely praying that a few guys come with me. I’ve got a couple of guys numbers, and I’ve told them what I think, but I’m not going to try to impose my thoughts on them. I know the situation they’re in is stressful, because I’m in it right now, or I guess I was until I committed. Everybody’s got their own opinion, and I’ll definitely be giving my two-cents worth, but I’m not going to tell them where they should or shouldn’t go, because it’s up to them to make their decision on what feels right. Hopefully it’s with me at Minnesota, but if not, good luck to them wherever they end up.”

Q: With your relationships with Rashad Vaughn, Riley LaChance, are those a couple of guys that you’re friends with, those numbers that you’re talking about?

Martin: “Yeah. I’ve definitely talked to them a little bit, asked them what they’re thinking. They’re saying it looks good for all the schools they’re looking at, but they only get to pick one.”