Kansas State University

Martin making NBA headway

Cartier Martin picks up the phone and leans back into a comfortable chair inside the Washington Wizards' locker room. He says he's doing well, that he's happy to be back in the NBA and that he expects to stay there for the foreseeable future.

He speaks this way because he is confident.

Martin, a former Kansas State sharpshooter who has been in and out of several professional leagues for the past three years, has to be. It's how he motivates himself to keep working toward his dream no matter what the future holds.

Because, in all honesty, the 6-foot-7 swingman can't tell you where he'll be once the season ends. Even though Martin has improved his game tremendously since joining the pro ranks, and can feel his game becoming more consistent by the day, he doesn't even know what the future holds.

All he can say for sure is that he will be playing basketball — somewhere.

"It's been a long road this year," Martin said. "I feel like I've been all over the world. It's been a lot of traveling and a lot of work. But it's all mental. You have to be able to deal with adversity. That's one of the things that separates me. I've got a strong mental game. I love to work and give 100-percent effort every time I'm on the floor."

Martin long ago proved his passion for the sport. Since leaving K-State after his senior year in 2006-07, the Crockett, Texas native has spent 10 months playing in Turkey, one in Italy, more than a year in the NBA Developmental League and been called up to the NBA three times.

His path has been filled with twists and turns, and he's happily taken them to continue chasing his goal of a lengthy career in the NBA.

Perhaps the description on his popular Twitter account — he says he's followed mostly by K-State fans — says it best: "I'm out here grinding and working hard to be the best at whatever I do."

Martin may not be the best in any specific area, but he has proven himself capable of regularly making deep threes, driving to the basket, fighting for rebounds and playing solid defense. Those skills landed him a spot on the Charlotte Bobcats' roster for 33 games last season, and call-ups to both the Golden State Warriors and Wizards this year.

He has been on the cusp of earning a year-long contract several times, and had he not chosen to accept a large, guaranteed contract from a professional team in Italy at the end of July's NBA Summer League, where he was one of the Warriors' best all-around players, he believes he may have received one.

"I probably shouldn't have signed that," Martin said. "It's not that Italy is a bad place, but I would have been better off to stay here, go to training camp and give myself a chance to make it back into the league. But everybody lives and learns.

"It was a guaranteed contract. At the time, no NBA team would give me a guaranteed contract. It was a situation where you have to look out at the best interests for you and your family. They offered me a pretty good deal. Being able to secure the future of me playing and for my family, I had to sign it."

Martin was planning for his life after basketball, which he says is much more important than his life with basketball. He is married and is expecting his first child in five months.

He feels blessed both for his family and new life in the NBA. After being released in Italy, Martin averaged 17.3 points with the D-League's Iowa Energy this season, and impressed the Warriors enough to sign him to two 10-day contracts and the Wizards one. On Friday, they signed him for the remainder of the season.

In 10 games with Golden State, he averaged nine points and 4.7 rebounds. Through five games with Washington, he is averaging 8 points and 2.6 rebounds.

He likes playing with the Wizards so far, and is trying to prove that he deserves to stay with the organization. For him, they key to doing so is consistency.

"It's not all about shooting the ball and scoring," he said. "It's about showing a team what you can do as a role player, because a lot of the teams that are looking to call you up already have their guys that they look to for scoring and other things. They want you to come in and just try to contribute as much as you can on an every day basis."

For a guy who claims to be out there "grinding and working hard" every day to get better, regardless of the location, that shouldn't be a problem.

"My goal is to play in this league," Martin said. "I feel like I'm a good enough player to do it. I know I can play at this level. I just need to keep proving myself."