There’s only one active Division One college basketball player carting around at least 1,200 points, 700 rebounds and 300 blocked shots on his resume. It’s a name the nation should know.It’s Hassan Martin. Commit the name to memory. You’ll be hearing it often this month.
Martin, a 6-7 senior forward, leads Dan Hurley’s Rhode Island Rams team which currently sits at 21-9 as it prepares for its Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship quarterfinal match-up this Friday. The senior finished the regular season averaging 14 points, seven rebounds, and 2.67 blocks per game — all while playing much of the year with a partially torn quadriceps muscle.
A Staten Island, New York, native and star at Curtis High School, Martin was the cornerstone commitment for Hurley after he became the Rams’ head coach on March 20, 2012.
“He changed our program the day he stepped on campus,” Hurley said.
Rhode Island averaged 7.5 wins in the two seasons prior to Martin’s arrival. In his freshman year the Rams nearly doubled that average, winning 14, and haven’t looked back, winning 61 more during his time, including 21 so far in 2016-17.
“When I got here it was pretty much dead,” Martin said. “Nobody really knew about Kingston, Rhode Island and URI. By my sophomore year, people started looking at us like we were a good team. We brought some nice pieces in and we’ve helped turn this place around. Now, this year to be ranked #21 in the country early in the season… the wait was worth it. I’m proud of the effort we’ve put in, the way we’ve stuck together, and I thank the coaches for sticking with us. Coach Hurley was confident in bringing me here and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my four years anywhere else.”
Now in the homestretch of his collegiate career, Martin is more driven than ever to pair an NCAA Tournament appearance, which would be a capstone achievement, with his status as program cornerstone. The Rams won five straight to end the regular season, among them were victories over VCU along with Davidson in the regular season finale. Against VCU, Martin scored 17 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in just 23 minutes of play, while he willed the Rams to victory with 21 points and 17 boards in a come from behind 73-70 overtime victory over Bob McKillop’s Wildcats on Senior Day.
Indeed, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a player offering a more authentic blend of toughness, explosiveness and electrifying athleticism anywhere in the nation — on both sides of the floor.
Offensively, the senior is shooting 60 percent from the field, good for 25th nationally, and has added a 17′ and in face-up game and a refined lefty jump hook to his arsenal. He’s a thunderous dunker, but his improved footwork and recognition in the post better represents his tireless commitment to personal development.
Defensively, he is the reigning Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year and is tracking towards repeat honors.
“I’m a defensive-minded player,” Martin said. “I’ve added more offense since I’ve gotten here, but I’ve always been defensive-minded. I use my length and timing to my advantage. I’m 6-7, not 6-9 or 6-10. Timing is key and I’ve progressed as the years have gone on. My timing has improved, I’ve become more athletic, stronger and physical and that’s how I’ve established myself. I try to see everything, direct guys, and like to tell my teammates not to reach and commit fouls. If they get beat on defense, they know I’m there to help them out.”
That’s stating it mildly. Martin has led the Atlantic 10 in blocked shots for four straight years, swatting 316 shots and leaving him a mere 14 shy of the school record with games to play. He’s also closing in on a top five ranking in conference history. He’s 10th in the nation in blocks per game this season at 2.67 and offers the complete package of rim protection, perimeter coverage in the ball screen game, and possession-terminating defensive glass-work.
All of that and more will be needed from Martin as Rhode Island seeks to position itself on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Rams want to do everything to render the selection committee’s decision a formality, not a discretionary one as the latter favors the so-called power conference teams.
This week Rhode Island will likely face St. Bonaventure in the Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship quarterfinals if the chalk bracket holds. Then a possible third date with regular season champion Dayton in the semifinals could materialize. How the Rams perform at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh dictates their fate on Selection Sunday. After four years and lots of mileage, Martin understands there’s only one way to approach these one-game seasons: task-at-hand focus.
“After all we’ve been through, it [an NCAA Tournament bid] would mean the world to me,” Martin said. “We have to keep locking in game-by-game, not look too far down the road. Focus on whoever we have in Pittsburgh and take it from there.”
Pittsburgh will be teeming with four-year, student-athlete stars who are the rule rather than the exception in the Atlantic 10. The league embodies the best of what college basketball offers.
And Martin embodies the best of the Atlantic 10.