There’s a photograph of a younger Kate Martin, when she was perhaps 5 years outdated, carrying a tough-girl grin together with her head tipped to the aspect. On Martin’s head was a backwards Iowa Hawkeyes ballcap. The arm round her shoulder was that of Lisa Bluder, then in her early years as Iowa girls’s basketball coach.
That’s an emblematic snapshot that’s shared amongst Martin’s sprawling and supportive household, most of which now resides within the Quad Cities. As a result of it exhibits that Martin was meant to to be a Hawkeye. When she sees that photograph some 18 years later, she will’t assist however grin once more.
“It simply jogs my memory that I actually worshipped Iowa girls’s basketball,” stated Martin, who’s starting her sixth and closing 12 months for the third-ranked Hawkeyes and is affectionately known as “The Glue” by her teammates and adoring followers. “I worshipped coach Bluder after I was youthful.
“I’ve recognized coach Bluder principally my entire life. So, to have the ability to be the place I’m proper now, at present, I by no means take any day without any consideration. It is at all times a great reminder of … why I am taking part in and who I am doing it for.”
It’s a neat story. However dig deeper, and the story turns into richer and extra impactful.
Martin is a St. Louis-area native, having grown up in Edwardsville, Illinois, which is a couple of 4½-hour drive to Iowa Metropolis. Her early connection to Iowa is that her aunt, Julie Fitzpatrick, is married to Iowa affiliate girls’s coach Jan Jensen. Martin would beg to remain in Iowa Metropolis throughout Bluder’s Iowa summer time camps as a teenager. Fitzpatrick and Jensen have two teenage kids now, however they didn’t have youngsters then and have been thrilled to welcome Kate for the week, permitting her to tag alongside to camp.
As Martin’s sport improved to the purpose the place she was a Division I prospect, Jensen would assign different assistant coaches to independently consider her. If Martin was worthy of a Hawkeye provide, there needed to be no familial bias.
“She had provides from a number of Massive Ten faculties,” Fitzpatrick stated, “however that is the place she needed to be. And all of it unfolded the best way it was imagined to.”
Quick ahead to Martin’s official go to at Iowa, which her father will always remember. Matt Martin remembers that day, Sept. 2, 2017, as a result of it was the primary time that Iowa soccer followers did “The Wave” to the UI Youngsters’s Hospital from inside Kinnick Stadium. It was additionally the Hawkeye soccer debut for standout defensive finish A.J. Epenesa, who performed for head coach Matt at Edwardsville Excessive College.
Matt grew up an Illinois fan and joked that, at first, he gritted his tooth via the Iowa stuff. Kate had already dedicated to Iowa 4 months earlier over provides from Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, DePaul and Saint Louis.
However it was on that official go to that Kate’s father advised Bluder and Jensen one thing that proved to be profound and prophetic.
“I don’t know what number of minutes Kate will ever play for you,” Matt remembers telling the coaches. “I don’t know what number of factors or rebounds she’ll ever get. However I’ll let you know what you’re going to get. When you’ve got recruits approaching campus, you need them round Kate. When you’ve got powerful occasions within the locker room, you need Kate round. If you go to the elementary faculties and skim books, you need Kate going. That’s who you’re getting as an individual.”
Underneath Bluder, the Hawkeye program is usually stingy with scholarship provides because it makes positive potential prospects are inclined to raise others up earlier than themselves. They fastidiously watch how star highschool gamers assist their teammates, how they act when issues aren’t going nice.
They have been bought on Martin as a participant and, most vital, Martin as an individual.
And Martin, no shock by that time, was at all times bought on Iowa. She couldn’t wait to get began. However her story was about to take an abrupt flip.
Early adversity was painful … however started to form Martin’s Iowa path
Two days earlier than Martin was imagined to report back to Iowa for summer time exercises and lessons, she was set to play in an All-Star sport in Pontiac, Illinois. Iowa coaches advised her they have been cool with it … that they might see her quickly.
However in a observe the day earlier than that sport, on June 10, 2018, Martin’s plans have been derailed.
“I used to be in transition, tried to do a hop-through transfer, form of acquired bumped,” Martin recalled. “I simply heard a pop and (went) down.”
Martin’s mother and father have been on their approach for the in a single day journey once they acquired a name from Kate, who advised them, “I’m damage dangerous.” Her dad advised her to chill out, that she had an inclination to overreact to minor accidents. After they arrived, Matt noticed that the left-knee harm was critical. Kate seemed up at her dad and stated, “Do you suppose I’m overreacting?”
“We put her within the automotive and drove her straight to the College of Iowa,” Matt stated.
Thus, her official arrival as an Iowa participant and pupil was with medical employees – girls’s basketball coach Jennie Sertterth and surgeon Brian Wolf. Martin first tried to rehab the knee, however ultimately the MRI returned a analysis of torn ACL, torn MCL and torn meniscus.
She was performed for her first school season, earlier than it even began.
After the preliminary disappointment, Martin – once more, keep in mind what her dad advised Iowa’s coaches – started to see the potential blessings behind it. As a substitute of worrying about scouting stories and basketball abilities, her consideration was targeted on veteran teammates like Megan Gustafson, Tania Davis and Kathleen Doyle. That Hawkeye staff would win a Massive Ten Event championship and attain the NCAA Event Elite Eight for the primary time as a program since 1993. Although she did not play a single minute, Martin was part of all of it.
“I actually discovered how one can be an ideal teammate earlier than the rest,” Martin stated. “If you sit out, you’re lacking the game that you simply love. I by no means had it taken away from me, apart from like a sprained ankle. To have to take a seat and watch and be taught, that was super-beneficial for me.
“I acquired to find out how Megan interacted together with her teammates. I acquired to observe Kathleen, how she interacted together with her teammates. Tania as nicely. I simply actually acquired to soak it in.
“I acquired to learn to be a cheerleader greater than something. I feel that’s helped form me into being a greater chief.”
How good a frontrunner?
Cue the reigning nationwide participant of the 12 months.
“She’s someone that can at all times attain out to you when you’ve got one thing occurring,” Iowa famous person Caitlin Clark stated. “And actually, when you by no means inform her you’ve got one thing occurring, she’s going to determine it out herself as a result of she simply has that management intuition inside her. She’s in all probability one of the best chief I’ve ever been round in my complete life; perhaps would be the greatest chief I will be round for my complete life.
“She’s going to have your again each single day.”
Clark continued by joking about how she needed to discover a loophole with the NCAA to carry Martin again for a seventh season, in case Clark returns in 2024-25 for a fifth. Martin, a fierce competitor, has turn into Iowa’s “enforcer” of kinds to maintain the sometimes-emotional Clark out of bother on the court docket. (Martin is sweet at nearly the whole lot.)
That’s a mirrored image of Martin’s capacity to assist, problem and acquire respect from one of the best participant within the nation whereas additionally having the ability to put her arm round someone who by no means performs.
That’s one thing Fitzpatrick has acknowledged about Martin, even earlier than her niece formally grew to become a Hawkeye.
“She values Caitlin as this unbelievable star that wears a heavy crown. She will get that. However she additionally could be very understanding of the child on the very finish of the bench, as a result of she was there,” Fitzpatrick stated. “She genuinely has this capacity to attach all people that makes all people really feel valued.”
Regardless of the staff wants this 12 months might imply extra scoring
Matt Martin is reluctant to inform this a part of his daughter’s story, however right here goes.
Kate performed in solely 24 of Iowa’s 30 video games as a redshirt freshman, nonetheless attempting to regain footing and confidence after the knee-surgery restoration. She averaged 2.4 factors and barely eight minutes a sport, and the Hawkeyes’ beginning lineup was dropping solely two gamers. And a type of spots was actually going to Clark, a top-five nationwide recruit, with Doyle departing at level guard.
Dad did the mathematics and realized Kate was considered one of 4 returning gamers who can be battling for one beginning spot the subsequent 12 months. That spring, he sat his daughter down for a chat.
“I stated, ‘It’s not a straightforward dialog, Kate,’” Matt recalled. “’I’m simply attempting to let you know, you want to take into consideration this: Is Iowa the suitable place for you? Are you going to play? Are you OK with not taking part in?’
“She checked out me and says, ‘Dad, I’m solely taking part in for one college, and that’s Iowa.’ And he or she stated, ‘One other factor. That one spot? That shall be my spot.’ And that was the tip of our dialog.”
Kate Martin’s love for Iowa and her willpower each shined in that second and that offseason. In 2020-21, she began all 30 of Iowa’s video games because the staff reached the NCAA Candy 16. The subsequent 12 months, she began all 32. Final 12 months, all 38 … all the best way to the nationwide championship sport towards LSU. As a fifth-year senior, she set profession highs in factors (7.7 a sport), rebounds and assists and linked on 41.4% of her 3-pointers.
The 6-foot ahead delivered seven factors and a team-high seven rebounds towards the enormous entrance line of No. 1 South Carolina in an unforgettable 77-73 win on the Remaining 4 in Dallas. Unforgettable for the seismic second of the largest win in program historical past and due to what occurred postgame.
Martin was chosen afterward to be drug-tested and was not allowed to make use of her mobile phone or rejoin her teammates till she supplied a urine pattern. (Drug testing is frequent and routine at NCAA occasions.) The issue was, she was severely dehydrated after taking part in 37 minutes.
“I suppose I performed too good, in order that they wanted to drug-test me,” Martin stated with a sarcastic grin. “And I couldn’t go to the lavatory to save lots of my life. I used to be there for like 4 hours.”
She requested the NCAA if she may textual content her household, which was 30-plus sturdy as ordinary and had rented a home in Dallas, to go on with out her. As a substitute of celebrating the largest basketball second of her life, she needed to sit helplessly alone. She didn’t return to the staff resort till 2 a.m.
“I used to be crying rather a lot. I used to be very unhappy, I used to be very offended,” she stated. “It was the largest sport of my profession, and I needed to have the ability to rejoice with my teammates.”
That story is yet one more reminder, although, that Martin can conquer no matter circumstances come her approach. And it additionally stirs up a little bit unfinished enterprise. She’d love one other return to the Remaining 4 (this 12 months in Cleveland), this time with an opportunity to rejoice a win together with her teammates.
So, what’s subsequent for Martin?
Her head coach, the one who has recognized her for almost twenty years, thinks one of the best is but to return.
“She’s taking part in like a professional proper now. She actually is,” stated Bluder, whose staff formally opens the season at 6:30 p.m. Monday vs. Fairleigh Dickinson. “She’s flattening 3s. She’s bodily defending onerous, rebounding. I feel you are going to see Kate simply soar off the stat sheet this 12 months.”
In two exhibition video games, together with one in chilly and windy circumstances at Kinnick Stadium, Martin compiled a complete of 21 factors, 14 rebounds and 4 assists in 32 minutes whereas taking pictures 8-for-12 from the sphere. With Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock departed, Iowa wants a No. 2 scorer behind Clark. Maybe Martin, who is thought to rise to the event in large moments, could be greater than “The Glue” on this extremely anticipated season.
“I will be no matter I have to be for this staff,” Martin stated. “If it is a scoring position that I must step into (and) search for extra alternatives for myself, then that’s what I’ll do. If it’s taking part in the ground extra, then that’s what I’ll do. Taking part in within the submit, that’s what I’ll do. However I’m feeling actually fortunate, that my physique feels so good in my sixth 12 months.
“Greater than something, I do know that that is my final 12 months of eligibility – sadly. So, I am not taking it without any consideration, simply profiting from each single day.”
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has coated sports activities for 29 years with The Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Sports activities Community. Be part of Chad’s text-message group (free for subscribers) at HawkCentral.com/HawkeyesTexts. Observe @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.