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Winding road leads junior college transfer Lonnell Martin Jr. to Montana men's basketball team

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Posted at 9:00 AM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 12:23:54-04

MISSOULA — The Montana men's basketball team recently completed its season earlier this month, but the Grizzlies already have an eye toward 2021-22.

Recently, UM picked up a commitment from junior college transfer Lonnell Martin Jr.

Martin said associate head coach Chris Cobb reached out to him and after meeting with him, head coach Travis DeCuire, the rest of the coaching staff and players on the team reached out to Martin.

"The biggest thing for my decision is just how much love they showed," Martin told MTN Sports. "I believe they've got some young guards and young talent that we can come in and make a difference these next few years and try to win some championships."

Martin ultimately picked Montana over offers from NCAA Division I schools Murray State, Oral Roberts and Abilene Christian, the latter of which was in his top two along with UM. He'll be eligible immediately for the Grizzlies and have three years of eligibility remaining.

Martin currently suits up at Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colorado. Cobb and UM originally reached out to Martin in early February after his third game of the season, and the conversations picked up from there, including Zooms with Martin on road trips which stood out to him.

"While they were on the road trying to get a win they thought, 'Hey, we should hop on a Zoom call,' so that showed how much they cared," Martin said. "Also got on the Zoom call with some of the players from the team and that went really well and that went about 30 minutes and most of it wasn't even basketball related. Really just off-the-court stuff and I really enjoyed that.

"The recruitment was surreal. That was something I never really experienced before. This was something I've been working for really my whole life. Basketball runs in my family. I've had some cousins and uncles play Division I and at the pro level, and just to see me get to that level and all of the hard work paid off it was kind of emotional at points."

Martin won't be a stranger to Montana winters as he originally hails from Flint, Michigan, with a basketball career full of ups and downs to this point. After playing varsity basketball at Grand Blanc High School in Grand Blanc, Michigan, for three years, Martin tore his PCL in AAU ball before his senior season. He recovered in time to play basketball as a senior, but after not getting the recruitment he was looking for, he did a post-grad year at IMG Academy in Florida. After that season and playing against some of the country's top talent, Martin committed to play at Division I Youngstown State in Ohio.

During that summer, Martin said he was short on some credits needed to be eligible, so he took summer classes and needed to retake the SAT. But by the time that process completed itself, Martin said Youngstown State moved on, so he opted to play at the community college level to begin his college career.

He began at Oakland Community College in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where Martin played in 25 games and averaged 17.6 points, 5.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 30.6 minutes per game. He shot the ball at a 38% clip from the field and 26.7% mark from deep while completing 83.7% of his foul shots.

After the season, Martin opted to head to a different junior college, so he landed at Otero and reunited with head coach Ted Crass who previously coached at Abilene Christian and had known Martin.

In 18 games at Otero, Martin, who is listed at 6-foot-4, 197 pounds, has averaged 14.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. All of his shooting percentages rose as well from the floor (43.7%), 3-point range (39.6%) and free throw line (84.8%).

His commitment to UM continues a long journey that will ultimately culminate in Martin achieving his Division I dream.

"Looking back, I was talking to my mom and dad and it was kind of emotional," Martin said. "They helped me stay determined and persevere through it."

On the court, Martin said his season at Otero was his first playing off the ball. Previously, he spent time as a point guard, and said he feels like his strengths include getting his own shot and scoring when needed but also creating for others. Martin said he wants to get bigger and stronger when he arrives in Missoula to help improve his game and part of his recruitment included developing a strength and conditioning plan.

Martin is just the second addition to Montana's Class of 2021 recruiting group along with incoming Las Vegas, Nevada, freshman Jonathan Braggs, both of whom will join the 11 players currently on UM's roster. Shelby native Rhett Reynolds is the lone known Class of 2022 recruit for the Grizzlies.

For now, Martin will finish up his time at Otero. They're currently 14-4 and finished 12-3 in conference and are on a six-game winning streak and will begin postseason play on Saturday.

"Just living in the moment and not taking anything for granted," Martin said about his final days with Otero before joining UM. "Especially with COVID, any game could be our last game so just really just live in the moment and try not to look too far ahead and dwell on the past and just enjoy these last bit of days and games that we have with each other and try to make the best of them so we don't have any regrets.

"Ready to win a ring here so we can get one at Montana."