What Kansas basketball's Remy Martin wants his Filipino heritage to mean for others

Jordan Guskey
Topeka Capital-Journal
Kansas super-senior Remy Martin during media day at Allen Fieldhouse on Nov. 2, 2021.

LAWRENCE — The pride Remy Martin has in his Filipino heritage has its roots in his childhood, before he ever earned recognition for his talent with a basketball in his hands.

It came from moments like being babysat by someone on his mother’s side of the family, where that Filipino heritage comes from, and that individual speaking the language Tagalog. Martin’s mother Mary Ann Macaspac said Martin understands some of the words, especially around food, and will ask questions about translations sometimes.

Martin’s pride came from moments like getting together with members of his mother’s side of the family to eat, which could be why Macaspac said he loves Filipino food so much. She said they’re “actually a big family” that likes to get together, that Martin was taught early how important family is and she’s so grateful he values his heritage.

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For whatever reason, Macaspac said, Martin grew up mostly around her side of the family. Ahead of Kansas basketball’s regular season opener Tuesday against Michigan State, Martin has made it clear multiple times how much that Filipino heritage means to him. And the super-senior guard, who transferred in from Arizona State, wants to use it to serve as a source of inspiration to others.

“I have always wore it on my sleeve with pride, but it’s in high school when it’s something that I really started to realize that it could take a big step and I could reach out to some people and change some people’s lives and perspectives,” Martin said this past week during Kansas’ media day. “So, when I was in high school I really wanted to reach out and get it going and I’m still wearing it. I wear it on my sleeve every once in a while and just represent, man.”

Macaspac added: “He’s been saying that, like, he says, ‘Mom, Filipinos, they love basketball.’ He’s been at my brother’s and my brother-in-law’s. They love basketball. They like talking about it. They like playing. And he said, ‘I’d like to make it someday in the NBA and so other Filipinos could see that they could do it, too.’”

Kansas super-senior guard Remy Martin answers questions during media day at Allen Fieldhouse on Nov. 2, 2021.

Martin, who’s listed at 6-foot and 175 pounds, understands he may not be the tallest guy or the most athletic, but he loves the game of basketball and has made it this far. Maybe, in the minds of some who also have Filipino heritage, he’s already made it by getting to where he is now with the Jayhawks. Either way, he wants to give others hope.

Macaspac said Martin always tells her he wishes he was just a couple inches taller, so that it wouldn’t be as hard for him, and she’ll joke that if he was taller maybe he wouldn’t be as fast. According to her, he has goals of competing on the Philippines’ national team. And she said a reason he wasn’t able to already in a certain FIBA event, is because she didn’t make sure he had his dual citizenship and passport for it before he turned 16.

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Macaspac thought if Martin got it before he turned 18 he would be all right, and didn’t pay enough attention to what her husband or her dad had been telling her. She said she apologized and that Martin told her it was all right, and she’s confident that in the future Martin will be able to play for the Philippines.

“He will,” said Macaspac, who added they would have visited the Philippines had the pandemic not occurred. “Remy is a very determined person, even as a young age when he says, ‘I’m going to do this mom.’ And he does it. And so, I’m sure he’s going to play for them some day, with them.”

Kansas super senior Remy Martin poses for a team photo during media day at Allen Fieldhouse on Nov. 2, 2021.

But even if Martin doesn’t, even if his career doesn’t advance in the sport as far as he’d like, Martin’s parents are already proud of him. Martin talked during his appearance on the Oct. 19 edition of The Jayhawker Podcast, about if he didn’t play basketball anymore his parents would still be happy because what he’s done with his education. And Macaspac backed that up when she spoke with The Topeka Capital-Journal on Saturday.

Macaspac said the importance of one’s education is instilled in Filipinos. Just as her parents instilled it in her, she instilled that in Martin and his siblings. It’s viewed as the number one ingredient to success.

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When Martin wanted to play basketball, Macaspac said he was told, “OK, you can play basketball. But you have to make sure that you get your education because education is something they can’t take away from you. But basketball they could, by injuries.”

Martin, according to Macaspac, replied: “OK, momma. I’ll do it.”

And that’s what happened. Martin, who’s named after his maternal grandfather, has a degree from Arizona State and is pursuing a master’s degree at Kansas.

Macaspac even indicated that Martin put off turning pro so he could get his master’s degree, and that Kansas provides the opportunity to do that while still playing basketball. She laughed talking about how there’s a competitive rivalry between Martin and his siblings that even includes whose diploma is displayed in their living room.

Feb. 27, 2021; Tempe, Arizona, USA; ASU's Remy Martin (1) reacts after hitting the game-winning three pointer during the overtime against Washington State at ASU. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-Arizona Republic

“We’re really proud of him, not what he’s accomplished as a basketball player, but him as a son,” said Macaspac, who appreciates how grateful and giving Martin is, “… He did everything that my husband and I asked for him even to this day.”

Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at jmguskey@gannett.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.