Family first: Brandon Martin earned Frank Martin’s trust in UMass basketball program

  • UMass forward Brandon Martin has started every game for UMass this season. He's had to earn his way in the Minutemen's program like every one of his dad Frank Martin's players. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass’ Brandon Martin grabs a rebound during the Minutemen’s season-opening win over Central Connecticut State earlier this month. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/22/2022 5:45:06 PM

AMHERST — Deciding if he would play college basketball again developed before Brandon Martin could determine where. The – spoiler alert – UMass graduate student only appeared in three games as a junior at South Carolina Upstate, so the NCAA blanket waiver of an extra year of eligibility from playing through the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic afforded him a second chance.

“I always wanted to get that year back. It was always in my mind, I gotta get my junior year back,” Brandon Martin said.

He assumed his final year of eligibility would be spent playing for his father Frank Martin at South Carolina. Then the Gamecocks administration relieved Frank Martin of his duties in mid-March. Both were without a program.

“I don’t want him coming up here just because, ‘well that’s where my family is moving to.’ No, I want him to come up here because, ‘I want to keep playing college basketball,’” Frank Martin said. “When you have a relationship with somebody and you bring business into your relationship, it complicates your relationship.”

With the elder Martin settling in at UMass late in the summer, Brandon decided to join his father in Amherst. They talked. A lot. Because as close as they are off the court, they sometimes clash on it.

“We’re different personalities. That’s why I’ve never coached my kids. At a young age, I could tell we were never going to be great friends on the court,” Frank Martin said. “We both had to understand it’s a give and take. He and I both have to sacrifice to make the basketball component work. He was willing to do it, and so was I.”

The whole Martin family moved to Amherst – Frank plus his wife Anya, Brandon and their younger children Amalia and Christian. UMass is familiar to Anya, a track star for the Minutewomen in the late 1990s with school records to her name. Frank needed people around him he could trust within the UMass men’s basketball program. He brought two assistants and two players from South Carolina. Why not make it three with a player he’s known his whole life?

“At the end of the day, if I can’t trust my son, I got major issues in life,” Frank Martin said.

That trust – on the court, at least – took time to build. Brandon Martin started his career at USC Upstate then transferred to South Carolina his senior year. He spoke with people that know both him, his father and basketball. They all said he should play for his dad.

“He would coach me fair, he would help me and do all the things that prepare me to be a better basketball player and person,” Brandon Martin said.

Class started early. The Gamecocks faced the Spartans in their 2021-22 season openers. Brandon Martin only played the final three minutes against his former school.

“It broke my heart, but at the time, that’s what he had earned,” Frank Martin said.

Brandon Martin eventually earned his way into 31 games, averaging 4.1 points and 1.5 rebounds in a shade under 12 minutes per game. He posted a double-double against Division 2 Allen University.

“He became a reliable teammate, earned his way, and by the end of the year, he was a contributing rotational player on a pretty good college basketball team,” Frank Martin said. “I knew he can do it to help us here.”

Brandon Martin has started every game of his UMasss career. Though he’s scoring just two points per game, Martin is pulling down 5.6 rebounds per contest (second on the team), is fourth on the team with 10 assists and tied for second with two blocks while providing commendable on-ball defense.

“I just want to kind of help get this program going and just lead it into the right direction,” Brandon Martin said.

And he gets to keep playing basketball. His mother Kimberly Hicks played collegiately at Florida Atlantic and in Europe professionally.

“I’ve just always been around it,” Brandon Martin said. “So, it’s just like the sport I fell in love with since I was a little kid.”

Basketball is part of the family, but it’s not more important than the family. Frank, Anya and Brandon Martin were regular presences at Amalia’s Amherst Regional volleyball matches this fall. The Martin family sits behind the UMass bench at the Mullins Center.

“It’s very important, family. We’re big on family – family first,” Brandon Martin said.

Brandon Martin obviously never had to earn Frank Martin’s trust before he became his player. Now he’s moved through his father’s four-tiered system which he uses to organize his program. They started with honesty. Do you want to play college basketball this year? Is UMass the right fit? That moves the process to loyalty. Both Martins did their part. Then they can trust.

“Only then do you get the real love. He and I got love off the court, and over the last year and change, we’ve gotten to a place where we’ve got love on the court, too,” Frank Martin said. “When you get there then you’re willing to deal with the negativity you’re dealing with, you’re willing to stay strong and connected through storms. It’s the way I try to run my relationship with all our players, and it’s no different with him.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
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