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Coronado’s Jhaylon Martinez emerging as big target for UNLV basketball

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Wade Vandervort

Flames lights up the Thomas & Mack Center prior to the start of a UNLV vs UNR game Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019.

Jhaylon Martinez is not your typical big man.

The 6-foot-11, 245-pounder may play center for Coronado, but his skill set goes beyond that of a traditional post player. And he’s still adding to his game.

Coronado coach Jeff Kaufman said Martinez offers a unique combination of abilities for his position.

“As big as he is — and he’s big, all of 6-foot-11, 245 pounds — he’s very skilled for a big guy,” Kaufman said. “He’s got a really, really nice jump shot. He can shoot it on the pick-and-pop from deep. He has nice footwork, he understands the game, passes out of the post really well. He has a lot of skills that guys with his size don’t have.”

Martinez only began playing organized basketball three years ago and already his length, agility and shooting touch have made him a recruiting target for UNLV and a dozen other Division-I programs. Coming off a junior season in which he averaged 12.7 points and 8.3 rebounds for Coronado, Martinez is currently rated as a 3-star prospect by 247Sports. He is the consensus No. 203 player in the Class of 2020 and he’s listed as the state’s No. 6 overall prospect.

In the modern game, where everyone is looking for big men who can operate in space, Martinez’s ability to stretch the floor on offense is making him a hot commodity.

“I would describe myself as a skilled big man,” Martinez said. “Very versatile, so I can do a lot of different things — shooting, posting up, being able to dribble and push the ball up the floor.

“I’ve always been able to shoot since I started [playing basketball],” Martinez continued. “I would say that’s a weapon because most bigs can’t shoot. People don’t usually expect me to make shots, so I use that to my advantage.”

College programs are recognizing Martinez’s potential. He visited Colorado State earlier in the year, and he is currently on an official visit to St. Mary’s until Saturday.

All told, Martinez holds 11 Division-I offers, including one that came from T.J. Otzelberger shortly after he was hired as UNLV’s head coach.

“He reached out about a week after he got the job and I ended up going to UNLV and had a meeting with him,” Martinez said. “He said he wanted to offer me. Since then, they’ve been coming in here regularly for open gyms at Coronado, and we’ve been talking and texting.”

Otzelberger runs one of the nation’s most progressive offenses and puts a premium on shooting at every position. His South Dakota State team finished third in the nation in 3-point accuracy last year (40.8 percent), so it's easy to envision a player like Martinez spotting up and letting it fly in Otzelberger's spread attack.

Martinez said he is taking UNLV’s offer seriously.

“It’s something I’m considering,” he said. “I really like UNLV and their program, and I like T.J. He seems like a genuine guy. I like his plan for me and the way he coaches. He knows that I’m a real versatile player and he said I would be able to post up, hit 3’s, run the floor and everything.”

Martinez is playing AAU ball with Vegas Elite this summer, and Otzelberger was on hand for all four of Martinez’s games at the Nike Peach Jam event last weekend.

Though it’s easy to get caught up in the value he could add to a team with his 3-point shooting, Martinez also understands his position comes with the responsibility of doing some dirty work in the paint. Among his goals for the summer are improving his stamina and his work around the basket.

“I’m better at running the floor and rebounding now,” he said. “I got better at that, and overall I’m always working on my individual skills, like posting up and hook shots and stuff like that.”

Kaufman said he has already seen Martinez make strides in the more conventional aspects of playing in the paint.

“When you talk about parts of his game that he’s growing into, he’s starting to body up and bang you,” Kaufman said. “He plays in space well, but now he’s getting that physical part of that game as well. With his rebounding and his ability to interrupt shots, we saw a great improvement just over the course of the [high school] season.”

Martinez is also an accomplished student, with grades and test scores plenty good enough to warrant attention from schools like Harvard and Columbia, both of whom have shown interest.

Martinez doesn’t have a time frame for making his college decision, but with his smarts, shooting and untapped potential, he will have plenty of options when the time comes.

“There’s no hiding the fact that he has that size and has that touch,” Kaufman said. “So his recruitment is very strong right now.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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