BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
He is the closest thing the Cincinnati Bearcats have to a star, so it was not surprising Kenyon Martin had some complaining to do after getting off 10 shots in their season opener.
Since the opener against Rhode Island, Kenyon Martin has left the driving to someone else.
| ZOOM |
Ten shots? For a guy on magazine covers and preseason all-star teams and the hit lists of NBA scouts?
"After the Rhode Island game, he said he didn't want to take that many shots," said coach Bob Huggins. "We've got a whole bunch of guys who don't want their teammates to think they're special."
Martin made eight of those shots, by the way. He finished with 16 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks. It was the last time his numbers reflected what was expected of him as the season began, although Huggins has expressed no dissatisfaction with his play.
Entering tonight's 7 p.m. game at the Shoemaker Center between the Bearcats (6-0) and Nicholls State (1-7), which is struggling after reaching the NCAA Tournament last season, Martin is fifth on the team in scoring with 7.7 points per game and is averaging 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks - all those figures falling below what he averaged last season.
NICHOLLS ST. at UC
When: 7 p.m. today|
Where: The Shoemaker Center
Records: Nicholls St. 1-7;
TV: Channel 19
Radio: WLW-AM (700)
BY THE NUMBERS
12: Longest UC unbeaten streak from the beginning of a season under coach Bob Huggins, in 1995-96.
9: Bearcats players who've scored in double figures through six games.
2-8: Nicholls State's record last season before finishing 19-10 and reaching the NCAA Tournament.
"Kenyon's the kind of guy that does a lot of things that aren't going to show up on the box score," Huggins said. "He makes the pressure defense so much better, and what he doesn't block, he changes. You don't have any stat for changing shots, but he had to change seven or eight against Southwestern Louisiana."
"My numbers aren't real good," Martin said, "but teams still notice I'm out there."
Since the very beginning of his career with the Bearcats, Martin has been a second-semester player.
He didn't do a thing before Christmas his first season, because he did not achieve the required test score for freshman eligibility until December of his freshman year.
It's a little like that now that he's a junior. With Bobby Brannen gone from UC's frontcourt, Martin is the player opposing defenses prepare themselves to stop.
"I think what's happened to Ken is that a year ago he was the 'other' guy, and now he's 'the' guy," Huggins said. "It was Bob a year ago, and that's shifted to Ken.
"Kenyon's so unselfish he's not going to try to make a lot of things happen on his own."
Huggins' theory works, but it would not explain the malaise that gripped Martin's game early last season, as well. He averaged 8.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in the half-dozen games before the close of the first semester in 1997-98. In the first five games afterward, he averaged 12.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks.
It seems plausible the conjunction of the end of the first semester and the start of the basketball season is a distraction to Martin. Martin at first said this was not a problem, but later conceded it was "a relief" to have final exams completed. "Now I can concentrate on my game for a month - just concentrate on things I could be doing better."
Although he is one of UC's most dangerous offensive players, with an improved mid-range jumper and a reliable jump-hook, Martin has not scored in double figures since the opener and has not attempted more than nine shots.
It's unlikely the Bearcats can continue their success against high-quality opponents if Martin's output remains the same. He worked at attacking more on offense last week in practice, but when he found himself a point of emphasis for the Southwestern Louisiana defense Saturday, he twice tried to move toward the goal and was called for offensive fouls. He finished with six shot attempts, making three for eight points.
UC has not forced the offense in his direction, and this has not bothered Martin.
"I don't want anyone thinking I'm being selfish, looking at it like, 'All the plays are for him,' " Martin said. "I just want to win."
New AP Poll
New USAT/ESPN Poll
1998 basketball stories