April 13, 2008
One of Matt Painter's first moves as Purdue basketball coach-in-waiting was to establish strong relationships with a quartet of in-state high school hoops stars. He hoped the foursome could turn Purdue into a national power.
Painter's instincts yielded a Top Ten recruiting class. All four players were ranked as Top 100 prospects, and all four signed with Purdue.
Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, Scott Martin, and E'Twaun Moore became known as the Baby Boilers, and they shocked the basketball world by taking Purdue to the top of the Big Ten standings for most of their freshman year.
Eager Purdue fans snapped up "The Future is Bright" t-shirts with jersey numbers #4, 14, 25, and 33 highlighted.
Although the Boilermakers eventually finished second in the league race, they advanced to the NCAA tournament and defeated Baylor before bowing out in the second round to Xavier.
Ask any Purdue fan (including me) about the "Baby Boilers" and they could barely contain their enthusiasm.
"Well, all these guys are really good, but there's no one superstar that is sure to go pro early...imagine what Purdue could do in their junior or senior season. Forget the Fab Five...that was so last decade. The Baby Boilers are here to stay!"
Um, actually, no, they're not. In a somewhat surprising move (although it had been rumored for months), Scott Martin announced this week that he will be transferring to continue his basketball career somewhere else.
Message boards had speculated that Martin was homesick, upset with a lack of playing time, missing his girlfriend, or (fill in the blank -- I've heard it all).
In fact, Martin actually addressed the issue himself in early March, right before the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, saying he had no idea how the rumors had gotten started and he was happy to be at Purdue.
Obviously not so much. Martin, a 6'8" lefthander from Valparaiso, Indiana, was actually one of the highest-rated of the four players coming out of high school. In fact, he was considered to be a better player than his high-school teammate, Robbie Hummel (who ended up on the All-Conference First Team).
Scott began his Purdue career on a tear, posting double-figure outings in nine of his first 13 contests. However, as Coach Painter mixed and matched the lineup in the early going (trying to blend the incoming freshmen with returning starters Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant), Martin became the odd man out, playing mainly off the bench.
Martin's season continued its downward spiral when he actually left the team for a couple days in December (reportedly due to homesickness), and then suffered a pair of ankle injuries later during Big Ten play. Despite these different issues, Martin remained a contributor for the Boilermakers, missing just two games due to the ankle problems.
One of Scott's better games this year, in my opinion, came at Assembly Hall against fierce rival Indiana. Although Purdue ended up on the short end of a 77-68 score, Martin was the best player on the floor in stretches of that game, despite his ankle(s) still not being 100%. He finished with 12 points in only 22 minutes.
Scott Martin finished his freshman season as Purdue's fourth-leading scorer, averaging 8.5 points and 3.8 rebounds a game.
His three-point shooting and free-throw shooting numbers were lower than many fans expected (31% and 70%, respectively), but Martin often was in the game down the stretch, competing on the frontline with longtime buddy Robbie Hummel in a "five-guard" lineup.
The flexibility Coach Painter had with a player like Scott Martin helped the Boilers to a great season...and it's a shame it will be just one.
Although Martin's future plans are unknown at this time, hometown Valparaiso University seems to be a likely option. With Indiana (gasp!) losing most of its current AND incoming players, seeing Scott Martin in a Hoosier jersey could be a possibility (although many Boilermakers would never forgive such an act of treachery!)
As for Purdue, Martin's departure is a blow, but not a devastating one. In fact, Purdue is being picked already as a possible Top Ten team for next year by several basketball writers (including CBS, SI, and ESPN).
With all five 07-08 starters returning (guards Chris Kramer, E'Twaun Moore, and Keaton Grant plus forwards Robbie Hummel and Nemanja Calasan), Scott likely would have been a substitute again in the 08-09 campaign.
Add solid senior Marcus Green, up-and-coming post project JaJuan Johnson, and incoming point guard Lewis Jackson (who could crack the starting rotation early), and the Boilermakers will still head into the upcoming season with a lot of firepower.
But not quite all of it. Good luck, Scott Martin.
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