Ms. Basketball: Hoops passion pushes Syracuse's Brittney Martin to greatness
Brittney Martin's father chose to sign his 5-year-old up for basketball because she was tall.
And being an accomplished basketball player himself, Darrell Martin might have suspected she'd have some athletic ability. What Martin's parents couldn't foresee, however, was what the game would come to mean to that not-so-little girl.
"I don't even know how to explain it," said Natalie Martin of her daughter's passion for hoops. "She loves it. It's all she thinks about. She loves that we come and watch. She loves to learn. She just loves to play."
Her affection for the game of basketball stoked a desire in her that helped her evolve from just another talented teen to that special player who helped lead Syracuse High School's girls basketball team to an impressive run of 49 straight wins over two years. This year, that streak ended in the 5A state championship game, where the Titans lost to Alta. Martin's ability and effort this season earned her the 2011 Deseret News Ms. Basketball Award.
"Basketball has always kind of come naturally to her," Natalie said. "But she gets better all the time. I don't think she can get any better, and then she does."
Martin, a junior, led the Titans to a second-place finish and a 23-1 record by averaging 21.2 points, nine rebounds, five steals, three assists and two blocks per game. Her strength is in her generosity with her teammates and her desire to improve.
"She wants to be good," said Syracuse head coach Rob Reisbeck. "She is constantly working; she is always in the gym doing all of the little things."
She is a star who finds it even more rewarding to involve her teammates than to score points.
"She gets along with anybody," said Reisbeck. "She loves to get her teammates involved. People look at her and think, 'boy she can score a lot of points.' But that's the total opposite of what she really is. She'd rather pass the ball and have a teammate score."
Martin dealt with double- and sometimes triple-teams and still managed to be among the state's best offensive players. She also played extremely well on the defensive end, thanks to her long arms, incredible jumping ability and great basketball sense.
Martin is talented, but to assume that everything has come easily would be a mistake. She works tirelessly to improve her skills, and that is something that inspires her teammates.
"After last year (when they won the 5A title undefeated)," said Reisbeck, "she felt like she wasn't as consistent as she wanted to be. She went out in the summer and worked hard to become even more well-rounded."
Her desire to tackle what is difficult has made her a huge asset to her coaches and teammates.
"Everything we need her to do, she can do," said Reisbeck. "And she is great to coach. Not much has to be said. She knows when she struggles, and she's harder on herself than we are. She does a great job of fixing things on her own."
In addition to working harder on the court, she has also made it a point to work harder in the classroom. She has turned herself from an average student into an honor roll student.
"She's realized that's important," said Reisbeck.
It becomes even more important as she decided to change her mind about a verbal commitment made to the University of Utah in her sophomore year. She said she felt she committed too early and without enough information. So she began the process again and said it is something she is enjoying this time.
Martin said she has always loved hoops.
"I like it because it's fun," she said.
In addition to giving her joy, Martin said she's learned some valuable lessons from her time in the gym.
"You have to learn to like everybody," she said. "You have to be able to play with everyone and get along with everyone. You have to learn to work with other people."