Twins Cody and Caleb Martin’s basketball journeys have forever been intertwined. It’s common for brothers to grow up rough-housing and playing sports with one another, but how many get to chase an NBA dream, and then embrace it as it arrives, alongside each other? The North Carolina natives reached the collegiate level at NC State, made a bold decision together while transferring to Nevada, then things came full circle with a trip back much closer to home with the Charlotte Hornets.
Their arrival into The Association wasn’t complete without their participation in the NBA G League’s inaugural Elite Camp just over a year ago. Both brothers competed, with Cody getting elevated to the NBA Draft Combine alongside fellow Elite Camp prospects like Tacko Fall and Terance Mann. It was there that he shined even further, rising up as the 36th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft because of it. Though undrafted, Caleb wasn’t far behind, signing with the Hornets thereafter. The two were reunited after an ever short time apart, and Charlotte has reaped the benefits of keeping the duo side by side.
But how will each one stand out individually at the pro level? Perhaps, that’s where their paths begin to differ, albeit it ever so slightly.
Having averaged 19.2 points as a junior at Nevada, Caleb earned Mountain West Player of the Year honors in 2018. He’s long been recognized as a gifted offensive player and there was more evidence of that in the NBA G League when he suited up for the Greensboro Swarm. Caleb averaged 21.3 points on 47% shooting and 37% from deep through 28 games, but making his mark at the NBA will be more about the little things.
“Caleb understands that he can really score the ball, but in order for him to create a career in the NBA, he has to become a great defender,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman — who coached the Martin twins at Nevada (and coincidentally enough, won NBA G League Coach of the Year in 2012 as well) — said. Part of Coach Musselman’s coaching philosophy around helping players understand their unique roles and catering skills towards a team’s needs can be traced back to his NBA G League coaching days and beyond.
“If you’re only shooting 5% of a game, what are you doing the other 95% of the time to help your team? That’s an exercise that we’ve done in the past with players,” the coach pointed out. “When you go to a training camp, what is a head coach going to say about you to his staff? What skill do you have? You might be killing guys in practice, but that might not be what a team needs.”
Fortunately enough, the Martin twins came to that realization early on.
“That’s part of our job at the collegiate level. We ask our guys and every hand goes up with guys wanting to play in the NBA, the G League, or Europe. That’s how we coach them,” Coach Musselman said. “That’s how their game preps are. That’s how their off floor pre-practice and post-practice routines should also be. It’s educating guys on the amount of work and preparation, and how to be a good teammate. The Martin twins were sponges. Those two were single-minded in what their ultimate goal was, but they won a lot of games doing it. They identified strengths and were able to have conversations about room for improvement. In reality, there are only so many lottery picks and so many stars.”
While Caleb looks to balance his offensive and defensive skills, Cody’s all-out hustle propels his efforts on the floor.
“The Martin twins have a pro mentality. Show up early, stay late. They understand that they are role players, complementary pieces,” their collegiate coach said. “Cody Martin takes pride in being a baseline and side out-of-bounds defender. How many guys in the NBA take great pride before the ball is handed from the ref to the inbounds passer, and are engaged and in a stance?”
Continuously united, the pair also shared the floor on assignment for the Swarm this season. Cody appeared in five games, averaging 18.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.8 steals. He can fill up the stat sheet if need be but never forgets his calling card. The 24-year-old ranks in the NBA’s top 15 players for charges taken per game.
Both players had really begun to hit their stride before the season’s suspension. Seemingly heeding to their collegiate coach’s advice, both Caleb and Cody were making advancements in their areas of improvement. Caleb had averaged 13.6 points and 1.6 steals over his previous five games in the NBA, while Cody showed evidence of a versatile line with 7 points, 5.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.4 steals over that same span.
They looked to be on the rise, and Coach Musselman doesn’t expect this hiatus to slow them down.
“Those guys work. Their games continue to evolve, they are never stagnant. Guys are either getting better or getting worse. Even during this quarantine situation, I know two guys that are going to come back better and it’s the Martin twins,” he said. “Some way, shape, or form, they’re figuring out ways to improve.”