KU newcomer Cam Martin 'a natural scorer,' according to former coach Jeff Boschee
Missouri Southern forward averaged 25 points last year
LAWRENCE — Cam Martin, the second-leading scorer in Missouri Southern State University men's basketball history, was tempted to remain in Joplin to play a fifth season of college basketball at the NCAA Division II school.
"I actually did talk to Coach (Jeff) Boschee about that just because I had such a good relationship with the coaches. I love Missouri Southern. I'm all about it," said the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Martin. He attended Missouri Southern the past three seasons after debuting in 2017-18 at Division I Jacksonville State.
Martin, if he stayed, would need to score just 101 points for the Lions in 2021-22 (during a Super Senior season offered by the NCAA because of the COVID-19 pandemic), to pass Greg Garton (1982-86) as the program's No. 1 point producer of all time.
By season's end, he figured to accumulate so many points he'd assure himself the career scoring record for a long time, maybe forever.
Instead,. the Yukon (Oklahoma) High School and Missouri Southern graduate elected to transfer to the University of Kansas on March 31.
"Part of me didn't want to leave just because of the relationships I have now. I love the campus. I love the school. But we talked about it. He (Boschee) was like, 'What else can you do? Yeah you can get the records and stuff for your career after basketball.' But I want to play professional somewhere. Coach Boschee said, 'You need to take that next step and move up and go do what you do (at KU).'"
What he does is score in bunches.
Martin averaged 25.0 points a game on 57.9% shooting a year ago in earning second-team All-America mention and first-team all-conference honors, both honors for the second straight year.
He hit 49 of 110 threes for 44.5%. Also, Martin converted 73.8% of his foul shots (107 of 145) while grabbing 9.1 rebounds and dishing 3.3 assists per contest. As a junior Martin averaged 24.1 points a game on 58.1% shooting. He was 34 of 95 from three for 35.8%. He also made 80.9% of his free throws while grabbing 9.2 boards per outing.
Another season in Joplin and he was on track to finish as the school's second-leading rebounder. He needed 150 boards to claim runnerup honors to John Thomas (uncatchable with 1,536 rebounds from 1969-73).
Martin — he attempted 15.7 shots a game last season — said he's been assured by KU coach Bill Self that a high volume of Martin's shots will be welcomed both in the paint and out past the three-point arc.
"He's told me a lot he likes my ability to pick and pop and space the floor and my ability shooting the ball," Martin said in a recent interview at Brett Ballard's Washburn basketball camp where Martin joined new KU teammates Bobby Pettiford and KJ Adams as camp counselors. "He says, 'If you are open, shoot the ball.' "
Martin knows no other way to play the game.
"I mean I'm a shooter. That's just how it's going to be," said Martin, who was born in Pampa, Texas and moved to Oklahoma for high school. "If it's a good shot, it's a good shot for the team, and I feel like if I'm open I'm going to be taking that (three-point) shot, a high percentage shot."
He said he often took part in long-range shooting drills with Boschee, KU's leading three-point shooter with 338 makes from 1999-2002.
"We did a lot of guard workouts and shooting and stuff like that. And it's great. I've been learning from the best shooter in KU history, debatable," Martin said.. "So yes I've been working on that for a while."
Martin considers himself a modern big man who can shoot from long distance as well as dunk.
"It depends who is guarding me. I can play a 4 (power forward) and play a 5 (center). I'm pretty versatile depending on what lineup we're going to go with," Martin said.
Martin's value to the 2021-22 KU team likely depends on how quickly he makes the adjustment to Division I ball.
"I mean, at the end of the day you are still just playing basketball," Martin said. "I'm excited for this transition. I was already Division I my freshman year (at Jacksonville State where he averaged 4.1 points and 2.5 boards in 2017-18). It's not quite the level as the Big 12. I'm ready just to work all summer, get better and get on with the season."
He said during summer workouts at KU he will work on "ballhandling, playing off pick and pop situations. I'm going to be in a lot of pick and pop situations and then a big thing for me is just to be able to guard more. With the transition (from Div. II to I), I'll be able to play more physical, work on switching ball screens, just being more versatile."
Martin says he is not dwelling on any differences between Divisions II and I.
"I think the biggest thing is the physicality, the way they let you play in the Big 12 with the fouls and different things like that," Martin said. "I definitely like contact. One of my biggest problems at Missouri Southern was me banging too much, just because I was so much bigger. I had to get away from that (or get called for fouls). I'm excited to get back to that, yes."
Regarding the competition level, Martin noted that Division II teams have fared well against Division I squads on certain occasions.
"Look at last year, Fort Hays State beat Kansas State and I think they finished last in the conference," Martin said of Fort Hays, which tied for seventh in the 14-team league. "There is obviously a gap and I think a lot of the top Division II teams can compete. I'm not saying they'll beat every D-I team but they can definitely be competitive."
Former KU standout Boschee thinks Martin, who chose KU over over Texas, UNLV, Creighton, Georgetown, Colorado State and Stetson, will fare well in his one season in Lawrence.
"He is a natural scorer," Boschee said. "He can stretch the floor. He scored despite being double-teamed, triple-teamed. He's a good passer as well. He can shoot it and bring bigs out on the perimeter. Last summer we had him work on his perimeter game a lot. He expanded that. He can put the ball on the floor, get by people.
"The biggest thing is how fast will he adjust to the speed of the (Division I) game? Being there all summer, he'll definitely work on his ballscreen defense. He's so big. He can do it and of course playing for coach Self he'll improve on that," Boschee added.
Boschee indicated that Marin is "a great kid from a great family. I'm extremely happy for him, Once I found out everybody was getting this year back (via NCAA rule in response to pandemic) I knew he shouldn't come back to our place, that he could move up. He had a great year, a great career, did unbelievable things for our program. He did some things that won't be duplicated."
Of Martin, KU coach Self said: "Cam is going to bring a lot of versatility to our frontcourt, allowing us to play with space and size. Jeff runs a solid program at Missouri Southern and knows exactly what it takes to play at this level. We're very excited that Cam is coming to Kansas and look forward to the positive impact he will have on this team."