When head coach Dan Hurley first arrived in Kingston, the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball program had certainly seen better days. The Rams enjoyed much regular season success under previous head coach Jim Barron, but were still waiting on a trip to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999.
As Hurley arrived so did a different culture. A culture that would hopefully bring life back to a fan base that was waiting for long overdue prosperity. To build this culture, Hurley and his staff began to recruit some of the top high school prospects in the country. The Rhode Island staff came across a 6-foot-7-inch power forward from Curtis High School in Staten Island, New York. His name was Hassan Martin.
Martin, now wrapping up his senior season, is a cornerstone to the Hurley era in Kingston. If Hurley’s years were a house, Martin is the foundation. Martin has cemented himself as one of the greatest Rams in program history. He’s become a dominant defensive presence not only in the Atlantic 10 conference, but also in the country.
It has been four years since Martin arrived on campus in Kingston and he has compiled quite the resume. He was named to the A-10 All Rookie team as a freshman, the A-10 All Second Team twice, the A-10 All Defensive Team three times, and the conference’s best defensive player the last two seasons. During Martin’s 2016-2017 campaign he missed five games due to injury and still became a second team selection, all defensive selection and Defensive Player of the Year.
“I was kind of surprised,” Martin said about receiving the awards. “With the injuries I went through at the beginning of the year I thought it would be a little tougher. At the end of the day I am proud of myself with everything I had been through this year. It means a lot to me.”
Hurley was content with where Martin fished the season. “If he’s healthy he is a potential play of the year,” Hurley said about Martin. “His health being what it was this year it was nice to see him get defensive player of the year and second team considering he was not at his best.”
For his career, Martin has accumulated 1,242 points, 759 rebounds and 314 blocks. With those statistics, he is certainly on the Mount Rushmore of Rhode Island basketball. Hurley has been nothing but appreciative of what Martin has done in his time with the program.
“This guy has been the rock, the pillar, that we have built this thing around,” Hurley said. “You just do not get to coach guys like Hassan Martin very often. The quality of player, the quality of person, the family, an amazing man.”
Yet, with all of the success and adulation, there seems to be one thing that Martin needs to cross off his college basketball bucket list: a trip to “The Big Dance.” Rhode Island has had an up and down year as a team, but this is the best chance the Rams have to go dancing. Martin is just looking to make a chase to March Madness before his career comes to a close.
“It has been a dream to make it to the NCAA tournament,” Martin said. “I am not only doing it for myself but I am doing it for the program. I am doing it for Hurley, and for my teammates. We really want to get there. It all starts Friday. We cannot look too far ahead.”
Martin and the Rams will head to Pittsburgh this week to compete in their conference tournament. The Rams are on the bubble. Positives outcomes in Pittsburgh translates to the fruition of Martin’s dream of seeing his team’s name boldly imprinted on the bracket.