Junior guard Kris Martin can be the fuel to defensive fire CSU is lacking

Kris Martin. Credit: CSU Athletics Communications.
Kris Martin. Credit: CSU Athletics Communications.

The Rams are reeling, looking to snap out of a four-game losing kid.

As redshirt junior guard Anthony Masinton-Bonner put it, the Colorado State Rams are lacking “effort” defensively more than anything at this stage of the season.

CSU head coach Niko Medved pointed elsewhere, and tagged insufficient communication as the culprit for poor defensive play.

Both explanations suffice, as a combination of the two have been exemplified during the Rams’ current skid.

The green and gold most recently dropped their fourth consecutive game overall to Arkansas on Wednesday night. In the defeat, CSU allowed 98 points on 52 percent shooting from its opposition.

Beforehand, the Rams surrendered 86 points in a loss to CU. The game prior, Southern Illinois amassed 82 points at Moby Arena to defeat the Rams. Simply, they’re getting killed inside the paint, both in terms of scoring and rebounds.

Bonner went on to explain how, “In basketball, it can’t just be one person, it has to be everybody” in terms of achieving substantial improvement.

Though the guard is absolutely correct with that statement, the Rams do possess a player capable of providing a spark that could rub off on his teammates.

Even though he only converted 2-10 shots from the floor against the Razorbacks, Medved was quick to applaud junior transfer guard Kris Martin’s effort on Wednesday night.

“I thought his attitude was really good,” Medved said. “He kept competing. I love the way he played.”

Frankly, Martin brings a lot to the table for CSU. The guard is averaging 13.5 points per game since being lifted from suspension four games ago. Martin’s potential to make a difference scoring wise was on display most against the Buffaloes last weekend. The guard put 21 points on the board, on 8-14 shooting.

Lights-out shooting from Martin shouldn’t come as any surprise. After all, in two seasons with Oral Roberts, the guard was an extremely efficient shooter, especially from outside.

As a sophomore two seasons ago, Martin converted 41 percent of his 3-point attempts. Additionally, the guard’s 73 converted 3s ranked No. 39 in the nation.

While Martin will most certainly continue to make an impact offensively, the fact of the matter is the Rams need defensive help. Lack of defense, specifically rebounding, accounts for CSU’s losing streak more than anything.

Martin can be the focal point of a defensive turnaround for the Rams. Although it hasn’t fully come into fruition, the guard’s highly-energized level of play can be translated to the defensive end.

Medved is aware of this, and has even mentioned the impact Martin is capable of making defensively.

“He is strong, quick, and competes his tail off on that end,” Medved said. “He looks to me like a kid who could really develop into an elite defender at this level.”

Martin’s 6’6″ stature is above average for his position. On a guard-heavy roster, Martin is one of the tallest players. Guard wise, if anyone is going to start helping redshirt junior forward Nico Carvacho out in the paint, it has to be Martin.

The statistics are encouraging as well, and indicate that Martin’s rebounding has improved over time. As a freshman, he averaged 2.6 rebounds per game. Then, during the 2016-17 season, Martin grabbed 3.6 boards each contest.

So far for the Rams, Martin is averaging 3.8 rebounds per game. That includes a seven-rebound outing in his CSU debut against South Dakota State.

“He is going to have to be a dynamic defender and rebounder for us,” Medved said. “I know he can score, but we really need him to have an impact in the game both ways if we are going to be the team we want to be. He has a willingness to do that, which is what I love.”

Martin’s persona has been contagious in the locker room. Ideally for the Rams, the next step would be for the guard’s presence to impact CSU positively on defense.

Martin has only played four games for the Rams. So, it would not be surprising if it simply took a few more games for the “Kris Martin effect” to settle in. Medved would be pleased if that were the case. Only time will tell.

“It’s fun playing with a guy like that,” Bonner said. “He is really confident. He has never met a match he doesn’t like. So, just bringing that mentality really helps our team, and bleeds through all of us.”

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