Husson University’s Justin Martin puts up a shot over Colby College’s Alex Dorion, right, and Noah Tyson (12) in a game Tuesday in Waterville.

When the Husson University men’s basketball team needs an easy layup or a fistful of rebounds, it knows where to go. The JMart has everything it needs.

JMart is senior forward Justin Martin. The 6-foot-6 Winslow native is the unquestioned leader of the Eagles. With a 10-7 record, 6-1 in North Atlantic Conference games, Martin will be a key player down the stretch as Husson goes for its third North Atlantic Conference title in four years.

“JMart been a key figure for us for four years. He’s having a fabulous senior year,” Husson coach Warren Caruso said following Tuesday’s game at Colby College, a 101-98 game lost when Colby’s Ty Williams banked in a three at the buzzer.

Martin is tied for the team lead in scoring, averaging 13.8 points per game. Martin’s 9.6 rebounds per game leads the North Atlantic Conference by nearly two boards per game. Martin knows he likely has less than a dozen games left in his competitive basketball career. He’s at peace with that, but he wants to make the end as successful as possible.

“It’s kind of bittersweet, because I’m kind of ready for it to be over, but I want it to end on a good note,” Martin said.

After helping Winslow High School reach the 2015 Class B North finals — the deepest playoff run for the Black Raiders since winning the state title in 2003 — Martin was an instant contributor at Husson, playing in 27 games and averaging almost six points per game.

A second team all-NAC selection each of the last two seasons, and the league’s defensive player of the year in 2017, Martin has made his mark as one of the top college basketball players in the state. Since the beginning of his sophomore season, Martin has not missed a start for the Eagles. That’s 71 consecutive games with Martin in the starting five. This season, that hasn’t always been easy.

“Right now I’m just trying to make it last, because I’ve had some injuries that have been nagging me lately,” Martin said. “I like playing as much as possible, because once this is done, I can’t play anymore, really. Do the best I can to get through and play.”

Added Caruso: “His body’s a little broken. He battles through every day. We manage his time on the practice floor and make sure he’s ready to play the games. He hasn’t let us down yet.”

Martin has been solid all season for the Eagles. In the last two games, he was exceptional. In Saturday’s 67-51 conference win over SUNY-Canton, Martin scored 21 points to go with 17 rebounds. In Tuesday’s last second loss at Colby, Martin had 22 points and 19 boards. He had 12 points and 11 rebounds in the second half, as Husson fought back from a 17-point deficit to take the lead. Martin’s layup with just under six and a half minutes to play gave the Eagles their first lead of the game. Soon after, Martin scored again, pushing the Eagles lead to four points. The Colby game was Martin’s eighth double-double of the season.

“He’s just playing at a high level. He’s been playing at a high level since Day 1. I couldn’t be more proud of who he is as a person and as a basketball player,” Caruso said.

In high school, Martin was asked to play almost exclusively in the post. In college, he expanded his game to include the 3-point shot. Martin’s 3-point shooting percent has increased each season at Husson. This season, he’s made 39.7 percent of his threes (31 for 78), up from 36.9 percent last season, and 25 percent as a freshman.

“I started working on it a little bit in AAU. I wasn’t big compared to other college bigs. I was still pretty skinny,” Martin said.

Caruso said Martin has become more adept at creating his shot closer to the basket.

“He’s just scoring better inside this year. That’s one of the things that maybe escaped him as a junior and early in his career. He’s an inside-out guy now,” Caruso said. “He’s become more aggressive, as we’d want him to. He’s always done what we needed him to do.”

Entering this weekend’s conference games against Thomas and UMaine-Farmington, Martin has 876 career points and 842 career rebounds. If Martin’s scoring average continues to climb — he’s scored at least 20 points in three of Husson’s last six games — he’ll reach the 1,000-point milestone before the end of the regular season. The 1,000 rebound mark will be harder to reach. If the Eagles make a run through the NAC tournament and earn a spot in the NCAA Division III playoffs, Martin will still need to average at least 13 boards per game to join Buster Frederick (1987-90), Al Caston (1967-70), and Joe Mesi (1976-79) in Husson’s 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds club. Martin said 1,000 points is a goal, but not the most important goal. That’s winning the conference title and getting back to the NCAA tournament.

“We’ve got to communicate better on defense and take better shots. Our defense has to step up. We can’t give up 100 points a game,” Martin said, referencing the Colby loss.

Added Caruso: “He’ll tell you doesn’t care about that. He just wants to win. He’s playing like a senior that is motivated to do something special.”

A psychology major with a minor in coaching, Martin is on track to graduate in the spring.

“I want to work with kids. I definitely want to coach,” he said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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