David Cox and the URI program secured a commitment recently from Charlotte transfer 6-foot-6 Malik Martin (9ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.7spg) — a rising junior who was named to the CUSA All-Defensive team last month. A versatile wing, Martin possesses the skills to impact games on both sides of the ball, from his capability to stretch the floor (37.8% 3PT) to his tenacity and ability to guard multiple positions.
He is, of course, the younger brother of former Rhode Island star Hassan Martin — a fierce competitor, elite shot-blocker (321; 2nd all-time at URI), and cornerstone of the program’s rebuild last decade.
It only makes sense then, to conference in the Martins and talk about brotherhood, Malik’s commitment, and Rhode Island basketball.
Chris DiSano: Malik, congrats on your commitment to Rhode Island. Hass, good to talk with you as always. Ok, let’s have some fun…
Growing up in the Martin house, can you describe a slice of that life and how close you are as a family?
Malik Martin: There are seven of us siblings in the house, plus my parents who are very strict. Lot of things going on in the house, lot of yelling, lot of brotherly fights going on, competitiveness about basketball… anything you can think of. It’s also fun… different age groups and you get to learn from each other. The youngest brother is six years old and the oldest is thirty.
Hassan Martin: I think it was very competitive as Malik said. Anything we did — Playing Nintendo, XBox, Playstation to playing one-on-one in the house. We’d make our own indoor hoops with a hanger and play one-on-one, two-on-two… We got into a little bit of trouble here and there with my mom, but my parents kept us in check so we never got into ‘real’ trouble. It was strictly basketball and staying on the books. Being in the neighborhood we grew up in it was hard for some of our friends to stay out of trouble, but luckily we had great parents who made sure we stayed focused on the right things. We always had someone, mom or dad, watching over us.
CD: Malik, if you could describe Hass in one word what would it be? And then Hass you’ll get the rebuttal.
MM: I would say humble. He’s definitely one of the most humble people I know.
CD: Wow, Hass, he did you right… you can’t do him dirty now. What’s the one word you’d use to describe Malik?
HM: To describe Malik… [pauses]… I’d say he’s the most spoiled out of us all [everyone laughs]. Definitely. My parents definitely weren’t as hard on him as they were on me, Phil and Kareem.
CD: That’s not right, man. Malik, you’ll get a chance to get him back at some point. Alright, on the court how do you think you and Hass are similar… and what’s something you’ve learned from him?
MM: As he got older, the way he read the game defensively… you could ask him about a match-up and he has a great eye and has helped me approach guarding opponents. His defensive tactics are the biggest thing I’ve learned from him. Both of us take pride on our defense. We’re very competitive. Anyone who watches either of us play is going to point us out and say ‘those are players who do not want to lose the game.’
CD: Hass, what about your take on Malik and how your games are similar?
HM: Honestly, I’d say the humbleness too. Malik isn’t arrogant, ignorant or cocky. But he can play. I agree that we both take pride in our defense. Malik is more of a perimeter player and definitely has some offense to him, which people will see when he suits up for Rhode Island. The tenacity and pride — we both have that same grit to us.
CD: Malik, you made the CUSA All-Defensive Team last year. What skills do you think are developing ones for you on that end – whether ball screen coverages, etc. – versus those you feel you possess naturally or innately?
MM: I think I’ve developed as an on-ball defender. When I first got to college I’d get caught gambling and reaching and that would put me in bad spots; and I’d get beat off the dribble. I got smarter and the two years progressed. One thing I can do really well is I can guard nearly every position on the court and I think that versatility is helpful to the team in that I can play multiple positions.
CD: Hass, I’ve heard – and you probably have too – some people floating the Stan Robinson comparison to Malik. Now Malik is a little bigger than Stan as we know, but do you subscribe to that as his older brother?
HM: I definitely see that. We actually spoke about that. Stan got a little more of a chance to showcase his offense than Malik did at Charlotte. Malik is a little taller than Stan but as far as defensively, being able to guard spots 1-4, but still having an offensive package, I think he and Stan are real similar.
CD: Malik, remembering back to when Hass was in Kingston, how many times did you get up here? These days, I’m sure you haven’t been able to travel up given the public health situation, so when was the last time you were on campus? I’m sure you had to make your commitment decision without coming to campus, right?
MM: Yeah. I’ve been there countless times. The last time I was actually on campus was probably his senior night. Knowing the campus and community the way I do made the decision to commit comfortable.
CD: You guys are obviously going to be playing for different head coaches, but Hassan, what are some of the aspects about this program and community that Malik will enjoy?
HM: It’s a different culture. Dan Hurley was real intense. David Cox is more laid back but he really knows how to develop players. So as far as skill development and the way he’ll develop his IQ with Coach Cox, I think he’ll do that with this program. And being that I was a big part of the building process he’ll get a lot of love. People will expect a lot of him being that he’s my little brother.
CD: It’s a good segue to a question which many have asked you, Malik. Maybe I will too now that it’s surfaced, but let’s angle into it a different way. Sure, there will be some sense of responsibility in following Hass, but at the same time you’re an independent man and you’ve got to come in here, work, and let your game live on its own, correct?
MM: Yeah, I’ve said that if people decide to call me Hass’ little brother I have no problem with that. But I am going to come in, make my own name, make the people proud, and let them know that I’m here to win and bring everything I’ve got. I’m not here just because I’m his little brother. I’m here to play.
CD: Malik, you’ve gotten that question from many people so you’ve answered it publicly before… but Hass, what’s your perspective on it?
HM: I think personally he’s got to ignore the noise. My name may come up in the conversation a lot but he’s just gotta go in, play basketball the right way, and he’s gonna be fine. He’s gotta do what he does. I know what he can do. He can score it, defend, and all are going to see that. He’s a humble kid and he works hard. If he plays the way I know he knows how to play, with that pride and grit, I know he’ll be fine.
CD: Malik, what’s the most significant lesson you learned at Charlotte?
MM: It’s a long game. College basketball is such a long game and season. We’ve lost close games, we’ve come back and won games where we were getting blown out, we’ve been blown out and come back and beat a team by 20 the next time we played them…it’s such a long game. You gotta take every possession like it’s the last. You can’t take a possession off no matter who you’re playing. Whether it’s the last team in the conference or the top team, you have to play every possession the same or you will lose no matter who you’re playing.
CD: That’s great perspective. Let’s drill in on your game. What’s an unheralded area of it that you feel is a real strength?
MM: Once I get going downhill, it’s often either a foul or a layup. I feel I’m a good finisher around the rim. Drawing fouls impacts the game in many ways.
CD: What about David Cox’s message to you Malik? What struck you or “landed” with you during your discussions and decision-making process?
MM: When I decided to transfer, I knew I had two years left and I had to make sure it was the perfect situation. The only way it was going to be the perfect situation was to go somewhere where I’m trusted. The message from Coach was that they wanted me here and that if I defend then I’ll be able to showcase my abilities on both sides of the ball, offense too. At Charlotte I just felt like I wasn’t able to showcase that side of my game to the fullest potential. Coach Cox also told me that he was going to really develop me. I spoke to Hass and he told me that Coach Cox developed a lot of players during his time there. To be able to get to the next level, I want to be able to show I’m a two way player. Coach Cox also showed a lot of interest so I knew I was really wanted.
CD: As far as the Atlantic 10, you’ve seen the league for a while. Are there any programs or guys you’re really looking forward to facing?
MM: The Dayton and VCU games were always the best games. I’m really looking forward to playing those two teams at their venues and at the Ryan Center.
CD: Hass, let’s ping back to you for a moment. For all the URI fans, can you get them up to speed on what you’re up to these days?
HM: I’m here in Rhode Island with my daughter and my girlfriend. I left Montenegro about three weeks ago. I had to rush out of there before things got bad, but we [Buducnost VOLI) were No. 2 in our league and were about to go to the playoffs. We had home court advantage to finish the playoffs and then this happened… I don’t know. Our season is suspended for now. I’m doing my workouts here at the house and waiting to see what will happen with our season. If it doesn’t continue I’ll look into my options for next season. I had a pretty good year in Europe.
CD: So eventually when Malik gets up here, you’re still in Newport in all likelihood?
HM: Yeah, I’ll be here. So whenever he comes I’ll be here waiting and work out with him most of the time.
CD: Malik, what’s your anticipated schedule look like if/when restrictions relax?
MM: I’m trying to get there as soon as the semester and the virtual learning is finished. It’s a new program for me so I want to get up there and get comfortable with the school, coaches, everything.
CD: Alright guys, anything else — we covered a lot.
MM: I beat him one-on-one last time. I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I beat him.
CD: Alright, yes, let’s go there.
HM: When was this… I don’t remember this… Hey Chris, I use to make Malik cry. It was crazy. [everyone laughs]
CD: This has been a lot of fun guys, thanks. All the best to both of you and your family; stay healthy. Malik, once again, congrats on your commitment and looking forward to seeing you in Kingston.