Caleb and Cody Martin miss North Carolina barbeque. They miss a couple of the downtown Raleigh burger joints. They really miss their mother’s attendance at Nevada basketball home games this season in Reno.
Other than that, the Martin twins have found a comfortable new home for a different Wolf Pack team after transferring following the 2015-16 season from the Wolfpack of N.C. State.
“It was a big decision, but it was a great decision, one of the best decisions we’ve made,” Caleb said recently by cellphone from Las Vegas where Nevada was preparing for the next night’s game against cross-state rival UNLV.
The Martins' performance in the win over UNLV was typical of the contributions they have made this season for the Wolf Pack. Cody put up 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and Caleb added 19 points, eight rebounds and two assists.
Nevada, seeded No. 7 in the NCAA South Region, plays No. 10 Texas in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday.
Cody’s responsibilities have increased since the late-season Achilles injury to point guard Lindsey Drew. From his guard position, Cody averages 14 points per game and leads the club in steals and blocked shots. He was named second-team all-Mountain West Conference.
Caleb is averaging 20 points per game as a forward. He was a first-team all-MWC performer and second in voting for league player of the year honors despite playing most of the season on an injured left foot. He is unable to practice with the team and removes his shoe to stretch his foot during timeouts and while sitting on the bench.
“On the floor, in my opinion, they’re all-league, MVP-type players, both of them, not just one off them,” said Eric Musselman, the former NBA head coach who is in his third season at the helm in Nevada. “From a coaching perspective, I don’t know if I could ever have a better relationship with a player than I do with these two kids.”
Nevada (27-7) won a second consecutive conference regular-season title. The Wolf Pack is ranked 24th nationally.
It is the kind of success the 6-foot-7, 205-pound Martins believed they would find at N.C. State.
The Martins were always headed to the same school out of high school. The twins grew up in Mocksville and attended Davie County High before shifting to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia for their senior seasons. They were heavily recruited by nearby Wake Forest and N.C. State, even though their childhood allegiances were with UNC.
Shortly after an unofficial visit to UNC, they committed to N.C. State, where they faced the same difficult adjustments of many freshmen to playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Gaining significant playing time proved arduous on a Wolfpack team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
As sophomores, Caleb managed 11.5 points per game and Cody contributed 6.0 a game. But they clearly were not comfortable in Coach Mark Gottfried’s star system where guard Cat Barber was deservedly the focal point of the offense. With incoming freshman Dennis Smith J.r. expected to take the departed Barber’s role a season ago, the Martins knew it was time to transfer. “
We struggled a little bit at State,” Cody said. “Every player always feels like they can contribute more. We just wanted to show people we could do more.”
In Nevada under Musselman, the Martins found a budding Mountain West power. Musselman’s first two Nevada teams won 24 and 28 games, and this season’s squad has surpassed 25 wins. The Martins also said they found a coach who instills confidence in their players.
A confident Caleb produced 28 points in a loss to Texas Tech and a win over Boise State. An equally self-assured Cody managed a 27-point, 11-rebound effort against TCU and a 22-point, 12-rebound showing against Wyoming.
By sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, the twins shored up their academics. Both are on schedule to graduate in May in general studies and are looking forward to graduate school next year.
While their mother, Jenny Bennett, who now lives in Clemmons, has managed to attend only two games in Reno this season, she has kept abreast of her sons’ activities in another way.
“She calls me about every two hours to make sure I get my homework done,” Caleb said with a laugh. “She’s been on it.”