Saturday, March 18, 2000

Game worsens Martin's pain


Being on bench adds insult to his injury

BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[img]
Kenyon Martin sheds a tear as the game begins without him.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kenyon Martin has received about 1,000 e-mails in the week since his season ended with a broken leg. But he didn't get the message of how painful missing the NCAA Tournament would be until he heard the starting lineup announced before the University of Cincinnati's first-round game here Friday.

        As Jermaine Tate got the call as the Bearcats center, UC coach Bob Huggins pulled Martin's head to his. Then as North Carolina-Wilmington won the jump ball, Martin took the towel perched on his shoulder and wiped away tears.

        “It hit me as soon as they called the starting lineup,” Martin said after UC's 64-47 victory. “It will probably hit me again on Sunday and then again next week. ... It's hard when you're used to hearing your name called and one day you don't here it called any more. That's hard. I don't care who you are.”

        It was hard for Huggins, too, who wasn't trying to comfort Martin: “I was trying to get him to comfort me.”

        Martin said: “(Huggins) asked me if I was all right, and I said, "You know I'm not all right.' He said, "Well, we'll do it.' I said, "You better, or you all have to deal with me.'”

        Martin forgot the tears and went with the cheers while taking up the first two seats on the bench. He had his choice and went to the front of the bench instead of the back so he could talk to his teammates.

        Martin spent most of the game encouraging freshmen DerMarr Johnson and Kenny Satterfield, as well as Tate. He even tried to give Huggins some advice early in the second half, urging him to quicken the pace with the press.

        “He's a lot better player,” Huggins said when asked of Martin's coaching.

        But like a good coach, Martin has become an inspiring figure. The Bearcats wore T-shirts with a UC logo on the front and the message, “This Tourney's 4 You!” in honor of Martin's number. Martin got his before the game, and the rest of the players got theirs after the game and told Martin this NCAA run was for him.

        “Just seeing him there when you come back to the bench is an inspiration,” said senior Pete Mickeal, who took Martin with him to the meeting of the team captains.

        “If you ask Kenyon, he's the first one to say, "Use me as motivation if you want to,'” forward Ryan Fletcher said. “He wants to help us any way he can.”

        Martin had dry eyes after the game, but the T-shirt draped over his shoulder stirred more emotion.

        “It's cool,” Martin said. “It's showing that they love me, showing they appreciated me while I played.”

        Tournament game coverage at Cincinnati.com/madness
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