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Mychal Martinez makes unexpected move onto UNLV roster

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Sam Morris

UNLV’s Mychal Martinez, center, gets ready to meet fans after the Rebels FirstLook scrimmage Friday, Oct. 16, 2009, at the Thomas & Mack Center.

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UNLV's Mychal Martinez moves upcourt during the Rebels FirstLook scrimmage Friday, Oct. 16, 2009, at the Thomas & Mack Center.

FirstLook 2009

UNLV head coach Lon Kruger talks to his players after the Rebels FirstLook scrimmage Oct. 16 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »

UNLV Basketball: First Look

Rebels fans got their first taste of the 2009-10 UNLV basketball season at First Look, an intrasquad scrimmage, Friday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Mychal Martinez made a basket in a Rebels uniform, with fans watching inside the Thomas & Mack Center, before Derrick Jasper or Chace Stanback.

That was the most unlikely development Friday night at UNLV’s FirstLook event, the public unveiling of the 2009-10 Rebels squad.

Two minutes into the second half, Martinez sailed in for a layup. Two minutes later, he yanked down Matt Shaw’s errant 3-point shot and put it back in.

Jasper, the 6-foot-6 point guard who transferred in from Kentucky, did not score. Stanback, the 6-8 forward from UCLA, has been nursing a sore left ankle and didn’t play.

“I was a little nervous at the beginning,” Martinez said. “It’s a lot different than junior college. I was a little jittery at the beginning, but I feel good now. Just ready to keep working hard.”

Martinez wasn’t even known to be a Rebel – he wasn’t on coach Lon Kruger’s pre-scrimmage roster – until he stepped onto the court for warm-up shots and drills.

“I gave coach a call, worked out with the team and he put me on the roster,” said Martinez, part of UNLV’s walk-on quartet with Steve “Chopper” Jones, Todd Hanni and Tyler Norman.

Locals will remember Martinez as an integral part of The Meadows School, which he helped lead to four 2A state titles.

He averaged almost 10 points at Yavapai College in Arizona last season, when he also earned NJCAA Academic All-America honors with a 3.65 grade-point average.

Kruger knew of Martinez, a 6-6, 207-pound forward, from his prep days.

“He wanted to play and we needed another … not a real big guy, but a big body … to practice against,” Kruger said. “It’s been great.”

Martinez had planned to play basketball at Notre Dame de Namur, a Division-II school in Belmont, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay area, when he broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in May.

The injury, he said, ended that plan.

“It just didn’t work out there,” Martinez said. “It wasn’t the best timing. The best thing would be to stay home with family and work out. My family’s good to me, and I love Vegas.”

Mountain West Conference hoops fans will recognize Martinez’s uncle – former Utah star Keith Van Horn. They talk about twice a year.

Martinez’s younger brother, Gerard, is a promising 6-4 lefty quarterback who will be a junior next season at Cimarron-Memorial High.

“To be honest, yeah, I always dreamt of playing here,” Mychal Martinez said. “I came to games in high school and always watched Wink Adams and Louis Amundson, and Curtis Terry. Those are the guys I remember.”

Martinez rang Kruger about a month ago.

“He told me to come by, and I started hanging out with the team and slowly getting to know them,” Martinez said. “I’ve been trying to come to this school for awhile.”

In a block-out drill Saturday morning at practice in the Mack, assistant coach Steve Henson showed why Martinez is a valuable asset to the Rebels.

Martinez was forceful, backing his body into his opponent and steadily moving him away from the rim.

“Watch Mychal!” Henson barked. “He does it right!”

In the left post Sunday afternoon, Martinez took a ball, feigned looking for someone to hit with a pass and turned 180 degrees to his right, leaning in for a layup off the glass by Carlos Lopez.

Moments later, he sliced under the hoop to slip in a reverse layin on the right side by Darris Santee.

“I’m pretty happy,” said Henson, who handled Martinez’s transition to the team.

Martinez confirmed that his foot is healed, and conditioning sessions have him close to top shape.

“Right now, I’m just happy to be on the team,” Martinez said. “I’ll help the guys and work hard in practice, that’s why I’m here. I’ve kind of been on the down-low.

“I want to be humble about it, get in and work hard.”

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  1. You've got to have a lot of respect for these guys who walk on and give it their all in practice for very little playing time.

    He seems like a great addition to the team.

  2. Coach Kruger is so cool the way he lets guys try out like that. Its obvious that he really cares about the young men that play for him.

  3. The current talent level has been raised a bit so I'm sure Martinez does not see PT. But I'm glad he's got the opportunity to contribute in other ways. I'm sure the team will benefit.

    I find it interesting that the two recent walk-ons have been Vegas kids. Kruger is giving these young men a chance to "play" for their hometown team. Even if you don't get much burn on the big stage, that's still a pretty special thing

  4. Welcome Mychal! Our new starting Center.

    Watch out NIT!

  5. Sufferin' - you claim to be a Rebel fan. most of the time, I'm not so sure. You'd get more respect for saying I told you so at the end of the season, then disrespecting a walk-on and the program in the beginning of the season. Hell, you'd even get more respect for saving it for right after the games we lose. Save your crap for the offseason cause I get the feeling you won't be saying anything at the end of season.

  6. He'll push the guys hard in practice and help keep the team GPA up. "NJCAA Academic All-America honors with a 3.65 grade-point average."

    How could this hurt the team???

    Is he the knew Scotty Hoffman?

  7. He's a loyal, local guy who's going to bust his tail in practice to push the regulars, and yet, you have to take a shot at him sufferin, er, robert ... hope you're getting your kicks with such misplaced and inaccurate comments. And you're a fan?????? Wow