‘I’m family’: Transfer Esmery Martinez made the right call choosing the Wildcats | Arizona Wildcats Basketball

PJ Brown special for the Arizona Daily Star

It didn’t take long for Esmery Martinez to find out she belonged in Arizona.

Shortly after visiting Tucson in April, she decided to go Wildcat.

Arizona wasn’t her first choice — she had initially verbally committed to moving from West Virginia to LSU — but there were still unanswered questions. She kept thinking about her conversations with UA coach Adia Barnes and wanted to know more. She took a trip out West and that was it.

Now, after nearly two weeks in Tucson — even in 100-degree heat — she knows she was meant to be a wildcat, not a tiger.

“Coach Adia and the (other) coaches made me feel like I was at home – like I was with family,” Martinez said. “They just made me feel comfortable. That’s why it’s just Arizona. (Coach Adia) made me feel good. …

“I made the right decision. I’m happy to be here. I’m excited and I can’t wait to play for coach Adia.

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Martinez entered the transfer gate after three seasons in West Virginia following the retirement of longtime coach Mike Carey. In her sophomore year, she averaged 13.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game and made the All-Big 12 first team. Last season, she improved her 3-point shooting, passing 25% to 40% while averaging 11.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. to earn second-team all-conference honors.

The 6-foot-2 forward had 128 interceptions and 71 blocks and 25 double-doubles during her three years at WVU.


West Virginia Athletics

Martinez said during games you’ll usually find her in the paint, bouncing around.

“I can help the team (bounce back) that’s why I’m here,” Martinez said. “I think God gave me a gift. I feel like I know where the ball is going to go, and I’m just going there for that. I don’t know how I do it.

“I’m a very good defender, but I like shooting the ball. It’s my favorite thing. In defense I feel like I can keep anyone. If I can’t I’ll work hard to protect anyone in any position.

Martinez smiles a lot these days, even when she’s trying to get her bearings on campus. His path to Tucson wasn’t always so easy.

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, things “were tough, but fun.”

“Because everyone has their own issues,” Martinez said. ” (But it is okay. I love my country.”

Martinez didn’t start playing basketball until she was 14 when she followed her younger brother, Lando, into the gym.

Once Martinez started shooting, her full attention turned to basketball and within just a few years she was on the Dominican Republic national team. She participated in the 2018 FIBA ​​Caribbean Championships and averaged 8.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a teenager.

Her teammates didn’t make it easy for Martinez, who was the youngest on the team.

“It was difficult because I was 16-17 and playing with adult women who were 27-28, but it was a good experience to play with them,” Martinez said. “They made me strong. I worked hard.”

“I am happy to be with my family now. Everyone has to come to the games,” said Esmery Martinez, who is here battling for the ball in an NCAA Tournament game against Lehigh in 2021.

Ronald Cortes, Associated Press 2021

Martinez played in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders camp in the Bahamas in 2017 and walked away with MVP honors. Martinez joins a select group of former UA men’s basketball players who have also played in this event over the years – Deandre Ayton, Lauri Markkanen, Josh Green and Bennedict Mathurin.

Many scouts were at the tournament and one in particular who was from the Dominican Republic suggested she play two years of high school in the United States so she could win a college scholarship.

Except Martinez had no idea what college was.

“Before coming here, I didn’t know the university. I didn’t know the NBA. I didn’t know anything,” Martinez said. “I thought I was going to play professionally. Back home, we just play professionally. We don’t play in college, not like here.

She played her freshman year of high school for the mighty Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She led her team to second place in the GEICO National High School Tournament. During that season, she averaged 18.3 points, 14.3 rebounds and 5.9 blocks per game. In her senior year, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament and was out all year.

Even though Martinez has been estranged from her family for many years, it never gets easier. That’s why this family environment for his next spot was so important to Martinez.

“It’s always hard for me because my family isn’t close to me right now,” she said. “I just keep my mind in place. I keep telling myself that I’m here for a reason. I am there for them, to help them.

She’s excited to be with her new teammates, playing the pro-style system Barnes uses, and can’t wait to play in a packed McKale Center. She’s seen big crowds before when West Virginia played at Baylor.

However, nothing prepares her for all the UA fans cheering her on, not against her. She can’t wait to experience it.

“I’m happy to be with my family now,” Martinez said. “Everyone has to come to the games.”

Rim shots

  • Former UA stars have made noise around the world. Dominique McBryde played in Greece and Luxembourg last winter and finished his European Cup season averaging 21 points on 61% shooting and 35% shooting from 3 points with 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists decisive and 3 interceptions per game. She is playing in New Zealand this summer for Whai Stingrays in the GJ Gardner Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa. Meanwhile, Trinity Baptist won a South American Basketball League championship with Félix Pérez Cardozo, a team from Paraguay. Baptiste, who plays as a power forward, averaged 17.8 points and 7.6 rebounds in nearly 35 minutes per game in the five-game tournament.
  • Arizona’s New Freshmen Kailyn Gilbert and Lemyah Hylton are in Buenos Aires to play in the FIBA ​​Americas U18 Tournament. Hylton was Team Canada’s top performer in Tuesday’s win over Brazil (10 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals). She scored 11 points in Monday’s win over Mexico. Gilbert, who plays for USA Basketball, has been through health and safety protocols with his teammate S’mya Nicholsand did not play in the first games.

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