While fans no doubt love the fairytale story of the Martin twins rising out of humble beginnings to play basketball on the same team in high school, college and the NBA, in a location one hour from their hometown no less, it was something Caleb Martin initially tried to avoid.
After the brothers starred at Nevada from 2017-19, Cody was drafted by the home-state Charlotte Hornets in the second round of the NBA draft. Caleb, the younger brother by one minute, went undrafted and got free-agent offers from a couple of NBA teams, including Charlotte, which is located one hour south of where they grew up in Mocksville, N.C. You might think Caleb jumped at the opportunity to sign with Charlotte so he could try and break into the NBA alongside his brother. But that wasn't the case.
"I wasn't even thinking of coming to Charlotte," Caleb revealed in part one of his interview on NSN Daily. "At this point in our careers, Cody had gotten drafted and I was at the point where I didn't want to make it seem like I wanted to go where Cody went. Really, I was trying my hardest -- even though I had all options open, the door was open anywhere, I was just looking for the best opportunity and situation for me to play -- but I didn't really want to go to Charlotte because I wanted Cody to do his own thing, and I wanted it to be time we had our own identities and show people we could play without each other and still be really good players."
It wasn't the first time Caleb wanted to put Cody's best interests at heart. After two seasons at North Carolina State, the twins decided to transfer and Caleb pushed for Nevada because he saw the Wolf Pack was as interested, if not more interested, in landing Cody as it was landing him. At the time, Caleb Martin was the bigger of the two recruits and the more accomplished college player. But Caleb wanted Cody to have an equal opportunity at success. Post-college, he was looking to do the same for Cody. But, in the end, the opportunity at Charlotte was too good to pass up. That was his best chance to make an NBA roster from an undrafted free-agent deal, which is never an easy path.
"I had a couple other options and I almost signed with one team literally the day before," Martin said. "I talked to my agent and talked to a couple of my friends. Going through the final options, it came up that Charlotte would have been the best option because the team was so young, some guys were at the end of their contract years, they had older vets on the team and some of those guys the team wasn't in the position to play because they were going young and making it a development year.
"Just looking at the roster and breaking everything down, it seemed like Charlotte was the best option for me to get my foot in the door. They gave me an opportunity and gave me a training camp deal and I just went in there and played as hard as I could, and I think they found something in me to where they thought I could stay here."
Martin played well enough in training camp to be shifted to a two-way contract and then an active roster contract, making the 15-man team after a strong preseason showing. Martin spent much of the season in the G League, where he averaged 21.4 points in 28 games, but he closed the season on the NBA roster and was playing his best basketball when COVID-19 shut things down.
In 18 games, Martin averaged 6.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in 17.6 minutes per game. He shot 44 percent from the field, including 54.1 percent from three. In his final nine games of the season, Martin averaged 9.9 points and 2.7 rebounds while playing 23.3 minutes a night. He made 49.2 percent of his shots, including 62.1 percent from three.
"The short amount of time I got to play in the NBA, it's one of those things that you think of and that you see on TV and you kind of wonder, 'OK, am I at that level? Can I compete at that level? Can I play?'" Martin said. "And then you get there and you play and it's nowhere near as bad as you think. You feel like the lights aren't as big as you'd think. Playing at Nevada on a big stage like that night in, night out with that type of crowd and that type of energy and then getting a lot of NBA experience and a lot of NBA reps in the G League, both of those helped me transition into the league a lot easier. Coming back for my senior year helped me out a lot, too. It allowed me mentally to get prepared and shed a lot of light on the things I needed to fix to get an opportunity to play in the league."
In Charlotte's final game before the shutdown, Martin had a 19-point, seven-rebound, four-steal, three-assist outing in an 11-point win at Miami. He also got to the free throw line a career high eight times, making all of them. Martin said the timing of the shutdown was both a positive and a negative.
"It was kind of tough," Martin said. "It was a good and bad situation, I guess, now that I look at it. At the time when we found out the season was getting shut down, we just finished playing against Miami in Miami. That was second game in a row where I played legitimate minutes, and I think I had like 19 points in over (30) minutes, and I felt like I was in a really good grove the last couple of games. And I was playing the best basketball I had played in the NBA all season. It was kind of tough now that I was getting minutes and getting more opportunity where I felt like I was really taking my stride and proving I could be a solid player for our team.
"Obviously we didn't know how long it would take for us to get back playing on the court, so month to month it was kind of weird not knowing when we'd get back. But at the same time, it was kind of good because we ended our season kind of on a good note playing really well, our team at the end of the season me myself. Even though it was a short period of time, I got to prove to people I could play, and I need to continue to prove that to people. But I was just glad I could shed some light that I could play in this league."
Martin said he's enjoyed the perks of playing in the NBA, which includes chartered flights and staying in the best hotels. It's a far cry from his childhood when he grew up one of three sons to Jenny Bennett, who worked multiple jobs and skipped meals to make sure her kids were fed. Basketball took the Martins out of the single-wide trailer they grew up in, and their rookie season in the NBA pitted them against players they grew up idolizing.
"I think when it really hit me, it was my best game in the NBA, we were playing against Atlanta, and just running up and down the court and I'm bumping and trying to box out Vince Carter and you don't really realize until you look back, 'I'm closing out on Vince Carter,'" said Martin, who scored a career-high 23 points in that game. "That's one of Cody's favorite players, and we used to watch him all the time. Just the fact that we got to play against him and I had a good game against him, I usually don't get star struck or anything, but it was just kind of weird playing against him. That was pretty cool."
Earlier this week, Martin had to quarantine in a hotel in Charlotte as the NBA allows the eight teams that were not invited to the Orlando Bubble to have an in-market bubble in the coming weeks so they'll be prepared when the 2020-21 season starts, most likely in January. Martin said he was filling his time by playing video games as he awaits clearance to get back on the court with his team.
After initially not wanting to sign with Charlotte so he and his brother could form their own identities, the decision to stay in his home state has paid dividends. And you can bet his mom didn't mind his decision to stay close to home.
"Y'all already know how my mom is," Martin said. "It was a dream come true for her. Probably in a million years, she probably would have never thought about that. That's stuff that me and my brother used to joke about if it would happen if we ended up being on the same team, and we didn't even think about being in Charlotte, but we'd say, 'That'd be so cool if we played on the same team in the NBA.' We're thinking it could be anywhere in the country, but I don't think we ever thought it could be an hour down the street. It definitely worked out. It's been a blessing."
You can watch part one of our interview with Caleb Martin below. We'll published part two about his time at Nevada on Friday.