By Brian McInnis
Phil Martin is going retro in Manoa.
The 34-year-old former Hawaii Rainbow Warrior is now a family man living on Oahu and has put a professional basketball career in Italy behind him. However, that doesn't mean he's done with hoops entirely.
Martin, now of the local fitness industry, is playing as a reserve big man for Clark Hatch Fitness — which he helps sponsor — in the College Summer League in Manoa. He had a few nice plays off the bench Tuesday in CHF's 107-90 blowout win over Solar Universe.
"I'm just here to help out the guys, get everyone a breather here and there, get Scott (Kato) a breather," Martin said. "Get some quality minutes in. I'm not here to change the game. ... It's been a while and it's nice to come back and see the guys again, because it's like family. We've kind of grown up together and played on the courts together. ... It's fun just to be here."
Martin holds the UH record for games played (127), of which he started all but five. He finished his UH career in 2003-04 with 1,231 points, good for eighth in program history. The native of Ontario, Canada, is the only 'Bow to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 100 steals in a career (Christian Standhardinger came close, but he was 13 steals shy in his two-year UH career).
But most impressive on his resume, Martin was part of the last two UH teams to advance to the NCAA Tournament (2000-01 and 2001-02) and the last two UH teams to make the NIT (2002-03 and 2003-04).
You can tell it's still him, though he's bulked up considerably from his UH days.
"Physically, I'm not going to lie, I feel tired," said the player once known as UH's "Iron Man." "But it's been two years since I've been in anything organized, so I can work out as much as I want and do other activities but it's the mechanics of the game and being on the floor that gets you ready and in shape. So I think game by game here, going into playoffs and stuff, stamina, endurance will come back. Like riding a bike. I just want to have my agility. That's been a lot of what my game has been."
Martin said he hasn't been fully in tune with the current happenings with UH basketball ("I think they got a nice thing going on. I'm looking forward to next season, and I wish them a lot of success, but I haven't really delved into it") but he does keep in touch with his early 2000s contemporaries like Predrag Savovic, Carl English and Mindaugas Burneika.
"Every now and then we have the opportunity to get together here in Hawaii," Martin said. "Some guys are passing through. Carl English is playing ball in Spain and stuff, Kube (Michael Kuebler) and the other guys. We do stay in touch. We'll have a gathering, get together at someone's house and just go over the old times. ... It's the glory days. People ask, I'm not ashamed. It's in the past. I'm not boasting or bragging at all, but it was a special, special time, so when I talk about it that's what I try to convey to people. The fans and everybody was just so excellent, and that's why it's so great to stay here. I'm happy to be here, all the support and everything, the recognition. It's unbelievable to see that everybody does remember that time."
In Clark Hatch's win, explosive Kaunaoa McGee led the way with 29 points while steady Leon Ballard added 28 to help their team improve to 1-1.
Washington State/'Iolani alum Derrick Low scored a team-high 22 points in the loss for Solar Universe, which was missing some key personnel. UH redshirt sophomore Dyrbe Enos had 15 points and a sweet off-the-glass alley-oop for a fastbreak dunk by Kona Makaula.
In the second game of the night Tuesday, defending champion Wealth Strategy Partners managed to improve to 2-0 for the early league lead — but it wasn't easy. Forward Joe Buck (24 points) sank the second of two free throws with 2.8 seconds on the clock in overtime to give WSP a 100-99 win over National Fire Protection.
Wealth Strategy has been without its best player, Julian Sensley, for its first two games. (Sensley apparently had some kind of knee procedure Tuesday for a previous injury, and it's unclear when he will be back.) But UH alum Miah Ostrowski is distributing the ball well and scorers like Buck and Chaminade's Waly Coulibaly are stepping up.
Action resumes on Thursday, in the older of the two Manoa District Park gyms from what I understand. Chosen Few, the only team yet to play, will see its first action at 6 p.m. against Grantco Pacific. UH newcomer Zach Buscher out of 'Iolani is on the Chosen roster, along with veteran Bill Amis.