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U-Hi second-leading scorer, Zech Martin, shoots over teammate Cody Moore during practice. (Dan Pelle)

Martin gives all-out effort for U-Hi’s boys

The University boys basketball team has a number of players who contribute game in and game out.

No player, though, has a more consistent impact than senior Zech Martin, Titans coach Garrick Phillips said.

It has little to do with statistics, too.

“He has a relentless motor,” Phillips said. “He plays every possession. Not every kid plays every possession. He sets the tone for us. He’s an emotional leader and an effort leader. He sets the bar pretty high.”

An all-Greater Spokane League first team selection a year ago, Martin’s numbers this season are on par with a year ago. He’s averaging 13.7 points per game, second best on the team behind Brett Bailey, and 6.2 rebounds. The 6-foot-5 wing makes 54.1 percent of his shots overall and 39.1 percent from 3-point range.

Martin, who matched a career high last week in the district championship game with 28 points, wouldn’t have to score a point and he’d be perfectly content.

“We have a lot more scoring options on our team this year,” Martin said. “My best friends are on the team so I’d be happy with anyone scoring. I don’t have to be the leading scorer. I look to score but it’s the wins that count the most.”

Martin is unselfish – perhaps to a fault. He averages about 10 shots a game.

“There are times when my teammates are scoring more than me and that’s fine,” he said. “We try to get the ball to the hot hand.”

And Martin, frequently, is the one with the hot hands.

He had to overcome a broken hand, though, before the season started. He turned out for football for the first time since his freshman year – much to the dismay of his parents, who were fearful he would get hurt.

Sure enough, Martin was diving to make a catch in practice and he jammed his middle finger into the ground. It was his shooting hand, too. It was broken and he had to wear a cast for six weeks, missing the rest of the season.

He got the cast off a week before basketball practices began.

“My parents weren’t fans of me turning out for football,” Martin said. “They didn’t want me to get hurt because basketball, obviously, is my sport.”

The down time while the hand mended afforded him the opportunity to work on his ball handling with his off hand. He believes it was beneficial.

“When I got the cast off my shooting was definitely a little rusty,” he said. “The wrist was a little sore from not being able to bend it. It took me a week or two to get my shooting touch back.”

Every day after he got the cast off until basketball practice began, Martin spent time in the gym shooting.

Martin is the fourth oldest of seven boys. He was born in Phoenix and the family moved to Spokane when he was in the seventh grade. His three younger brothers are going to be basketball players, too.

His mom, Sue, played at Montana State University. She was a 6-0 post.

Zech Martin, a three-year letterman and two-year starter, naturally gravitated to basketball.

He wants to play in college but interest has been minimal so far. Lewis-Clark State College has been in contact and Eastern Washington University offered a preferred walk-on opportunity.

“He’s going to play somewhere,” Phillips said. “He can stand out on any night, but he’s just fine with blending in, too. He sees himself as a defender, passer and rebounder. He takes what the opponent gives us. He’s an all-around player and doesn’t get caught up with points. But he’s very capable of taking over games.”

Martin noticed the lack of state trophies at U-Hi. It’s been since 1985 that a team has advanced to state.

He wants to end that drought Friday.

“We should have gotten to state last year,” Martin said. “I think we got overconfident and we didn’t work as hard as we should have. We’re different this year. We’re a family. I’m confident we can do something at state.”