Perley’s Press Pass: Confident Mindset, Nevada Drills Paying Off for Cody Martin

by Sam Perley

Every day after practice during Cody Martin’s three years at the University of Nevada, then Head Coach Eric Musselman made his players work on defending inbounds passes for a minimum of 15 minutes. The repetitions were perhaps tedious at times, but forcing a turnover in this particular situation – although rare – can often be a game-altering development.

“It’s one of those drills you’re going into like, ‘Man, we got to do this drill again?’ recalled Martin. “They were called staggered jumps. Basically, it’s just staying active because you never know when that situation will come about. Even though you do those drills every single day, it might only pay off once. It happened to come into play when we were at Golden State.”

And come into play it certainly did for the Hornets on Saturday night. Holding a one-point lead over the Warriors with 24 seconds remaining, Martin redirected Damion Lee’s inbounds pass right back towards the Golden State guard. Lee attempted to bat the ball back to himself, but instead, bounced it into the first row of courtside seats at Chase Center.

“I got to give a big shoutout to Coach Muss,” said a grinning Martin after Monday morning’s practice. Prior to his stint at Nevada, which included three straight Mountain West Conference Regular Season titles, Musselman had previously been at the helm of both the Warriors (2002-04) and Sacramento Kings (2006-07), in addition to several other NBA stops.

This sequence had come roughly 20 game seconds after Golden State’s big-bodied rookie forward Eric Paschall drove down the right side of the paint, looking to bank in a go-ahead, six-footer. Martin defended the play perfectly, forcing an errant attempt that eventually went down as a defensive rebound for Devonte’ Graham.

Following the Lee giveaway (or more so the Martin takeaway), Terry Rozier missed two free throws on the other end, but Marvin Williams tapped up the loose ball, allowing Martin to sky up for a critical two-handed offensive rebound. He made one of two free throws to push the lead to two and after Dwayne Bacon’s own offensive rebound and ensuing jump ball, Martin scooped up the rock again to all but seal the win for Charlotte.

Slowed by an ankle injury in training camp, Martin finally had his moment in the spotlight and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Hornets as they wrapped up their road trip with second straight victory.

“He was great,” said Head Coach James Borrego afterwards. “He’s been working hard. We drafted him for a reason. We believe he’s a winner. He’s got winning DNA and I think he showed that against Golden State. He had a major impact in that game. Getting deflections, 50-50 balls, defending, playing the right way. I’m really proud of his effort. He had a really big game and we expect him to only get better from here.”

“It means a lot that Coach Borrego trusts me and had enough confidence in me to put me out there in a situation like that,” Martin added. “It was just about staying ready, my mindset and understanding that you never know how the game’s going to go or when your opportunity is going to come. For that game in that situation, it ended up being my opportunity.”

Borrego couldn’t pinpoint one particular reason behind Martin’s unique style of play. His ability to find himself in the right place at the right time on the court might just be something that’s been internally engrained since he first picked up a basketball.

“It’s tough to teach,” Borrego said. “He just has that knack, that feel of winning plays. Even on the jump ball, that ball wasn’t coming towards him. He just went and found it. He’s just got a knack for making winning plays. He’s just learned that for some reason over his years. He’s become a winning player and made some big plays for us down the stretch.”

Martin played just four minutes in the team’s six-point win, finishing with one point (the lone free throw), two rebounds and a block. His overall impact greatly exceeded his statline though, and if Saturday night is any indicator, there’s plenty more to come from the rookie second-round pick.

“I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why they brought me here – to do things like that,” Martin added. “Playing hard and going in there with a mindset of trying to take advantage of every moment you get. With more time and more confidence, things like that will come. It’s only a matter of time and for me, it’s about staying ready, getting those reps in and staying confident.”

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