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Saturday, March 26, 2022

Soaking it all in: How Kansas guard Remy Martin is embracing every second of KU’s deep tourney run

Kansas guard Remy Martin (11) gets fired up as the Jayhawks take control late in the second half on Friday, March 25, 2022 at United Center in Chicago.

Kansas guard Remy Martin (11) gets fired up as the Jayhawks take control late in the second half on Friday, March 25, 2022 at United Center in Chicago.

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Chicago — Before coming to Kansas, super-senior point guard Remy Martin never made it farther than the first round of the NCAA Tournament during two trips to the Big Dance with Arizona State.

Today, he sits one win away from reaching a Final Four. In order to get there, Martin knows he must first remember the feeling of sitting in the losing locker room with the Sun Devils, dreams dashed, emotions raging.

“You don’t forget those feelings,” Martin said of his 1-2 NCAA Tournament record prior to this season. “You try to wear that, you try to turn them into a positive and you try to work hard to be able to reach the point where you want to go. I think that’s part of my story, just being able to fail so many times and keep getting back up and continue to try to reach your goal. I’m just living in that story right now.”

What a story it has been.

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Kansas guard Remy Martin (11) laughs with Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) during a press conference on Thursday, March 24, 2022 at United Center in Chicago.

From injury issues to limited minutes to rock star status and everything in between, Martin’s one-year ride with the top-seeded Jayhawks has never been dull. Frustrating, sure. But never dull.

As he prepares to help Kansas take on 10th-seeded Miami at 1:20 p.m. in Sunday’s Elite Eight at United Center, Martin’s mind remains locked in on playing with the same passion and production he has during the past three weeks and his heart has exploded with appreciation for the opportunity.

“I’m having an incredible time,” he said Saturday during one of two media sessions that followed KU’s Sunday afternoon practice. “It’s probably the best time of my life, with the best coach and the best teammates.”

For most of the season, Martin has lived those words.

When things were rough and he wasn’t playing much or playing hurt, he said he was happy to be at Kansas.

Before Senior Day, three games into his return from a month-long shutdown to bring his right knee back to full health, Martin said every opportunity to wear the KU uniform was a blessing. And before the Jayhawks’ postseason run began, which has included six consecutive victories and Martin playing a major role in each one of them, the 6-foot senior with the passionate game and California personality said he thought he still had something left in the tank to offer.

Boy, was he right.

That the reserves in the machine that is Martin would include him being KU’s best player at key stages of do-or-die games in March was hard to predict. But that’s what made it easy for Martin and his teammates to embrace.

“That’s what I think is special about this team,” KU sophomore Jalen Wilson said Saturday. “We all follow each other. No one’s afraid to lead. No one’s afraid to listen.”

Never was that more evident, when it comes to Martin, than near the end of the first half of Friday’s Sweet 16 win over Providence.

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Kansas guard Remy Martin (11) celebrates with Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) after a bucket during the first half against Providence on Friday, March 25, 2022 at United Center in Chicago.

After draining a jumper to put the Jayhawks up 26-15 in the final minute of the half, Martin went into full puppet master mode. As Kansas got back on defense, Martin instructed the Kansas crowd to come to their feet and get loud. They did.

“It’d be awkward if they didn’t,” Martin said Saturday with a sly grin.

Moments later, with Providence holding for the final shot of the half, Martin talked through a defensive assignment scenario with Wilson, taking the lead on what the two Jayhawks needed to do on the play.

The switch was executed perfectly. And none of it was premeditated.

“I think it was just feeling the moment; It was just the right time,” Martin said of that sequence. “It’s just kind of part of me. There’s really no explanation of it. It’s just a feeling and it’s just who I am. At the moment, I was just like, ‘Man, let’s get it going and get the crowd going.’ I only do things that may benefit the team. That’s just what it is. All of me.”

Wilson said moments like that from Martin take his energy to a higher level.

Even-keeled All-American Ochai Agbaji said what little fire he does flash came from Martin. And he remembers the moment when it first took root.

“When he came in, we had a pick-up game for the campers and he was on my team, and it was the first time I had ever played with him,” Agbaji said Saturday. “It was just like, you know, kind of feeling things out. He’s over here talking me up like, ‘Go! That's you! That’s you, Och!’ All that stuff. I kind of got it from him, and then he kind of spread it to everyone else. That kind of confidence came from, honestly, Remy coming in here with just a different vibe.”

No matter who you ask, the Jayhawks all will tell you that Martin’s positive attitude during even the most frustrating moments of this memorable season was what allowed him to get to today.

“We’ve said all along that we had a chance to be a much better team than what we displayed, even though we had a really good year, just because of him,” KU coach Bill Self said on Saturday. “But not knowing what “him” really was. So, yeah; It’s been great. He’s one of the few guys out there than can have a miserable or very poor year by his own expectations and he would tell you right now he’s having the time of his life. It’s been the best year ever (for him) in large part because of the last couple of weeks.”

Martin credited Self for a lot of his success during this final run, both as a player and a person.

“He’s the best coach I’ve ever played with and he brings something out of me that a lot of coaches don’t know how to do,” Martin said of Self.

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Margaret Self, back right, the mother of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, poses for a group photo with her family during a recent Kansas postseason game. After the passing of Self's father in late January, Margaret has been able to become a fixture behind the KU bench again, and she'll be in New Orleans this weekend when the Jayhawks play in the 2022 Final Four.

While his return to the court has reenergized everything about him, Martin has continued to emphasize the one thing that he said mattered most when he decided to come to Kansas. Winning.

That the Jayhawks have continued to do just that has brought Martin and his teammates extreme joy.

But KU’s late-arriving X-factor also has been able to successfully manage the emotions that come with a run like this — all business between the lines, staying loose with his teammates off the court and soaking up every second of the journey, from the sights and sounds and keepsakes to the final scores and individual stats.

“I’m absorbing it,” Martin said Saturday. “This is my last year. I’m not letting it get to us because we’ve still got a lot more to go. It’s honestly amazing to be able to survive (in this tournament) and I don’t take that for granted at all.”

His teammates are right there with him, both for Martin and for their own memory banks.

And as much as they all will say what Agbaji said on Saturday about not having Martin throughout most of the Big 12 season — “Obviously, it sucked” — they all did whatever they could to keep his head in the right place and keep the chance alive for him to come back and help this team make a run.

“That's why I knew, at some point, his success would come because he’s had this great attitude,” Agbaji said Saturday. “He hasn't done anything wrong. He's just been injured. So he's kept his spirits high and that's paid off, obviously. You see it happening now.”

Comments

Barry Weiss 3 months, 1 week ago

wow, I did not know Remy almost came here to start his career. (see Remy interview)

Len Shaffer 3 months, 1 week ago

Really nice column, Matt. And Remy is such an inspiration.

Steve Zimmerman 3 months, 1 week ago

Never forget this either: Remy's ASU vs KU is 2-0.

Barry Weiss 3 months, 1 week ago

I was there for the ASU win in Tempe, they ate our lunch, mainly Remy!

Ryan Mullen 3 months, 1 week ago

Dude needs to start! He should play at least 35 minutes from here on out.

Benjamin Shear 3 months, 1 week ago

Maybe. But remember during the Creighton game he actually signaled to HCBS to come out of the game for a breather. He plays at such a fast pace, and hasn't had all the benefit of full basketball games/practice for February that it is fine for him to come off the bench.

I have full confidence that HCBS knows how to do this.

Lee Short 3 months, 1 week ago

Ryan, you are absolutely correct.

If Remy doesn't start and we lose because we didn't optimize his number of minutes on the floor, the second-guessing will be huge by almost the entire fan base Wilson had 38 minutes yesterday, Braun and OA had 36 minutes, yet Remy clearly chipped in the more, as he did the prior 3 games, to salvage yet another a win. In the last game, his incredible contribution, recognized almost universally as being the most by any Jayhawk was with only 27 minutes of play! Great efficiency, a huge spark. The dude's got game, so to speak. Needs to leverage him to the max through the rest of the tournament.

Easy to see now why he was the pre-season POY in the Big 12 and started out on the Bob Couzy watch list for being the best guard in the country. Minimizing his minutes makes no sense now that he is delivering on those earlier expectations.

Steve Zimmerman 3 months, 1 week ago

"Great efficiency, a huge spark. " -----

Damn right he is. Y'all might've noticed this too, once Remy hit the floor, OA started shooting right away. Wilson seemed to receive energy boost and fighting spirit, too. Remy's presence, confidence and energy radiates to other players. He's not perfect, but he makes up his mistakes through plays that matter most. He's a totally difference maker. Period.

Bill Kiekel 3 months, 1 week ago

Steve, Loved your post ! You nailed the Remy factor we have all been watching all of these tournament games. ENERGY!

Andy Godwin 3 months, 1 week ago

Remy Martin has been great, and KU would have got bounced in the second round if not for his offensive production, but if Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun continue to struggle scoring, KU will fail to reach the Final 4. And KU will need to score against Miami who have big wins against the likes of final four contenders Duke (76-74) and UNC (85-57) and they average 75points/game. They have won their last two games by an average of 16 points while KU has struggled to dominate in either of their games against Big East foes. If KU fails today, the ACC will most likely have 3 teams in the Final 4 and then the discussion will be the Big 12 was overrated yet again. Baylor carried the Big 12 torch last year, it is time for the Jayhawks to step up and advance to New Orleans. Rock Chalk.

Brad Watson 3 months, 1 week ago

Remy is the key...It's his show!!!....He Will lead this team to New Orleans!.......and Happy Birthday Coach!!!!

Robert Brock 3 months, 1 week ago

This game may remind us of the VCU fiasco. Save us, Remy. HELP!

Pamela Shanks 3 months, 1 week ago

I can see the other side of the chess match. Miami is not a deep team. Let Harris start...he is a solid ball handler. They can chase and swarm and "scramble." Let them get rid of some of the beginning of the game adrenaline. Then, when Remy comes in, instead of settling down for the reserves, they have to really ramp up to match his speed and energy. Perhaps that recipe is small part of why he has made such a difference for us coming off the bench??

Darrel Stice 3 months, 1 week ago

I wonder if a tourney MVP has ever been a player who comes off the bench. It's one thing to come off the bench and have one amazing game, but Remy has arguably been our best player every game since the start of the conference tournament. I hope we find out!! Rock chalk! Let's goooooooo KU!!!

Dirk Medema 3 months, 1 week ago

Darrel - I’m not sure about mvp but Villanova had a reserve that played himself into the draft.

Rodney - Jesse Newell has a nice article about Remy’s year illustrating both the bad D he brought with him from asu and the growth that McDermitt talked about. In typical JN style, he’s got both the analytics and video examples. He does comment on them meeting in the middle which I think is mistaken. Coach has commented on learning to be more open on O, giving Remy and everyone more freedom, but the real key is that Remy has learned to live where Coach’s expectations reside. There really is no concession from that point, which is why they are doing better.

https://amp.newsobserver.com/sports/college/ncaa/article259789885.html

Rodney Crain 3 months, 1 week ago

Is the Jesse Newell info for me?

If it is I don't care. When I see something myself I don't need someone else to explain to me what I really saw. Remy makes stupid mistakes on defense, others see it and write about it. It is a fact. He plays because of his offense, I got no issue with that side of his game.

Right now however I don't care about Remy. We are winning and in the final four.

However I do hope that he gets to cut down another net!

I think we can all agree on that.

Bryce Landon 3 months, 1 week ago

If Remy keeps it up, he might end up being MVP of the Midwest Region.

Dirk Medema 3 months, 1 week ago

Pamela - Haven’t seen your comments before and I think you nailed it. Harris is a facilitator, though someone else accurately commented that every position needs to be some element of an O threat. It would seem that he also facilitates Remy by taking the initial edge off the other team which accentuates Remy’s burst.

Steve Zimmerman 3 months, 1 week ago

Pamela - a PG's critical task is to create shots for others besides being able to guard, what makes a team better is when this PG (in modern basketball) can shoot, can drive, score, as well. This is basketball, a sport that's won by only a team who outscores the other one. In KU's case, when Harris passes the ball to, say CB, how often do you see him shoot confidently? Heck, even Ochai - how many FG does he have in the tourney? He's always tightly defended. That's where a PG that can create shots for himself willingly, like Remy, makes sense. His 'bad D' can be well compensated by charges he draws, shots he makes, assists, energy, sparks he brings to the teammates. +100 point differential, when he's in. I don't see why Remy doesn't start. It's important that he's on the floor 36 minutes at least in this game.

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