Keene State College point guard Ryan Martin has decided to stick with basketball after graduation by playing professionally overseas.
“Honestly it was something I wanted to do the second our season ended,” Martin, who’s finishing his senior year, said. “I felt like I didn’t want my [basketball] career to end.”
For basketball players who don’t have a chance at the NBA, that means exploring the world of international basketball, or FIBA. With a few differences (a trapezoidal key replaces our country’s rectangular one, there are no three-second lane violations, etc.), a case can be made that FIBA resembles NCAA play more than the NBA does.
Because so many NBA players are freakishly athletic, the league tends to emphasize isolation basketball more than FIBA, which relies heavily on team actions for offense. Coach Rob Colbert, who has seen eight of his former players join FIBA, explained the difference.
“It’s more of a cutting-type of league, a screening style of play,” Colbert said. “The Europeans are utilizing the ball-screen a lot more in recent years, which [Martin] has done a ton of, so that will help him a lot. But it’s much more structure-oriented than individualistic.”
For the optimistic Martin, who’s never been known to coast on his athleticism, the differences will only favor him.
“I think for me the style overseas almost fits me better,” Martin explained. “The players who are skilled seem to dominate in the game, and I’m more of a skill player. The play here is based on size and athleticism, and over there it’s more about skills, so I think I might do better over there.”
Martin’s got some help preparing for the transition. His older sister, Toby, played for the Quakenbrueck Dragons in Germany for three years after college. Ryan said she has given him advice as he begins to contact teams and scouts. But whether it runs in the family or not, the decision to continue playing was a predictable one for anyone who knows Martin.
The game of basketball has been a big part of Ryan Martin’s life since he first started dribbling in the third grade. He was a four-year starter at Maranacook High School in Maine before going to division one U-Maine on a basketball scholarship. But Martin was unhappy with his playing time after two years, and so the game led him to KSC.
It’s not surprising that basketball is what brought him here; that seems to be a common theme in Martin’s life. His relationship with basketball transcends just a game. He feels inexorably linked to it. It’s a bond Martin is fighting to keep.
“[Martin] is going to succeed at whatever he puts his mind to because he’s going to work for it,” Assistant Coach Kevin Justice said.
It won’t be easy making an impression on FIBA officials. Coaches aren’t exactly going out of their way to scout division-three ballplayers.
Colbert estimates players from the Little Eastern Conference go on to FIBA just once every several years. Martin has a realistic approach to the process.
“Absolutely, [being from Division III] is going to be the hardest part,” Martin said.
“Coaches overseas are obviously going to overlook me because I’m from division three. Something like four D-III players every year go on to play overseas basketball.”
But Martin said he feels he has grown as a leader in his three years at KSC and thinks he’s only getting better. He has certainly won over his coaches.
“[Martin] is the hardest working kid I’ve ever had the pleasure to coach. He’s very humble,” Colbert said. “He’s a kid who is very goal-oriented and takes incredible care of his body.”
Being coachable will go a long way as Martin attempts to familiarize himself with FIBA play.
“If you told Ryan to run through that wall he’d ask you how many times,” Colbert said of Martin’s attitude. “He’s just wide open to coaching and criticism and positive reinforcement, he takes everything literally. He’s been a pleasure to coach.”
Ryan has no preferences for which league he’ll go to yet, but he has begun the difficult process of marketing himself to a new basketball world across an ocean.
A man he describes as his “kind of-sort of agent” has scheduled Martin a workout in Croatia for June and he’s working with Coach Justice on a highlight tape.
For most athletes at KSC, graduation represents the end of their athletic careers. Add that to the list of reasons why Martin isn’t like most other athletes: he’s confident that his career is just beginning.
Zach Winn can be contacted at