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Move to Nevada set up twins’ NBA careers

By Brian Pitts

Davie Enterprise Record

Caleb and Cody Martin began their college basketball careers at N.C. State. They transferred to Nevada after their sophomore years, going from the Wolfpack of the ACC to the Wolf Pack of the Mountain West Conference.

Both are members of the Charlotte Hornets. Would their NBA dreams have been realized had they stayed all four years at State?

“We talk about that all the time, about how coming to Reno and playing for Nevada is the best decision I’ve ever made, especially for my career,” Caleb said in part two of his interview with the Nevada Sports Net. Part one was in last week’s Enterprise. “Not only for my career, but the connections I made when I was out there. That school gave us a lot of opportunity playing for Muss (Eric Musselman), and we made a lot of great memories and met a lot of great people out there. I really don’t think we’d be in this position if we didn’t make that move.

“The fact that we did that and moved all the way across the country and for the first time we lived outside of North Carolina, it was crazy how it worked out. We’re grateful and we think about that all the time because of how well it worked out and how much fun we had when we were out there. It’s crazy how it led us back to where we started. It was definitely the best move we could have made career-wise for sure.”

In two seasons at N.C. State, Caleb averaged 8 points and 3.7 rebounds as a part-time starter, while Cody averaged 5.1 points and 3.5 rebounds. Those are good stats across freshman/sophomore seasons in the ACC, but they didn’t foreshadow what happened in 2019-20 when both twins were key players for the Hornets down the stretch.

At Nevada, the twins became overnight stars, leading the Wolf Pack to consecutive 29-win seasons, two regular-season championships, two NCAA tournament berths and a Sweet 16 berth. Nevada climbed to a No. 5 national ranking.

Caleb was named an All-American and the MWC Player of the Year, and both earned all-conference honors.

As seniors, Caleb averaged 19.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals, and Cody averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks. Their pro stocks soared, with Cody getting drafted early in the second round and Caleb signing as a free agent.

Back in 2016, Caleb and Cody were determined to transfer to a program that would take in both players. They did not want to go their separate ways in college. Nevada coveted Cody, too, and they trusted Musselman.

What is Caleb’s favorite Musselman story? It was a game against San Jose State.

“We were going back and forth with this fan behind the bench,” he said. “He’s jawing back and forth. It’s getting to the end of the game, and it’s still close but we’re about to win. (Musselman) keeps jawing back and forth with this dude. I hit a shot at the top of the key, and he’s just jawing back and forth with this dude. At one point he’s not even watching the game. He turns his whole back to the game and is looking at the fan, just talking junk. I’m running back down the court thinking: ‘He’s not even watching the game. He’s just talking to this dude behind the bench.’ Just certain moments like that is why I knew I wanted to play for him. We like to talk and be energetic and he’s got a pit bull mentality, so he goes at it for people and that’s what I like about him and why I love playing for him.”

Everyone who knows the twins knows about their mother Jenny Bennett, who raised three boys as a single parent, working multiple jobs to put food on the table while living in a single-wide trailer in Davie County. Now that the twins are in the NBA and drawing paychecks most people in the world can only dream about, they are giving back to their mom.

“It’s one of the best feelings in the world, honestly,” Caleb said. “It’s one thing I’ve always wanted to do – to do anything and everything for my mom when I can and whenever she asks without having to worry about it. As a rookie and through a pandemic, you have to treat the first check you get like that’s the last check you’re going to get. That’s how I try to spend my money, but we’re in the process of trying to get my mom a car. That should happen in the next couple of weeks. I’m excited about that. I ended up having to tell her because she was having some car issues and we were worried about certain stuff. We were actually going to keep it a secret, but we didn’t get that far into it. We told her two weeks ago we were about to get her a new car. The first thing is a car and bills. We’re just here to make sure she’s not worried about anything. You know how my mom is. She doesn’t like handouts, so she’s still doing her side of things, too. But we’re just here to make her life as easy as possible and try to give back a little bit. I know whatever we do isn’t going to be half of what she did. We’re just going to do our best and she’s grateful for that. We just feel like it can finally be our time to do something for her.”

Both Martins are under contract with Charlotte for 2020-21, at $1,517,981 each. Both closed last season playing major minutes and producing big numbers in the final 10 or so games. COVID-19 ended Charlotte’s season with 17 games on the schedule. They did whatever they could to work on their games during the shutdown.

“Thankfully, we’ve been able to get back into the arena the last couple of months while everything has been shut down,” Caleb said. “That’s been a good getaway spot to be able to get in the gym. Before the gym and facility was open, we’d ride bikes down to random parks and shoot balls on the goals until the city took the nets off. We were still riding up there and shooting with no nets. They saw people were shooting on the goals with no nets, and then they put blocks over the top of the rims. We’d still ride up there and shoot, just visualizing it’d go in with the blocks. We just did a lot of random stuff. But it’s been cool since we’ve been able to get back in the gym.”