Kenyon Martin versus Oscar Robertson sounds like a one-on-one game for the ages; a battle of legendary players from the Cincinnati Bearcats’ storied history. That is exactly the matchup we got in the final of the All-Time Favorite Cincinnati Bearcat Basketball Player Tournament, which went from 64 players to two in a matter of weeks.
However, although Martin and Robertson represent some of the best UC basketball has to offer, there was actually not a great deal of competition in this one. Despite dominating his way to the final, Robertson only put up a minor fight in the championship round, as Martin won with 74.3 percent of the vote. That’s nearly three fourths of all the ballots cast over the last week.
Martin’s path to the final was paved with numerous routs. The No. 1 seed in the Bob Huggins region of the tourney was a unanimous selection in the first round against No. 16 seed Steve Collier. He followed that up by taking down No. 8 seed Justin Jackson with a 93 percent total. In the Sweet 16, the 6’9” forward from Saginaw, Michigan faced No. 5 seed Jack Twyman, who also has his number retired just like Martin and Robertson. Even though they share that honor, Martin and Twyman didn’t give us a tight race, with Martin claiming 85 percent of the vote. Then, in the Elite Eight, Martin dominated tournament surprise Yancy Gates with 96 percent. Lastly, in the Final Four, Martin scooped up 81.1 percent of the votes to move past fellow No. 1 seed Sean Kilpatrick before taking down Robertson this past week.
What made Martin the pick? Well I can guess at a few of the reasons.
He had an exceptional senior season
Although it would end with an injury, Martin’s 1999-00 campaign was one for the ages. He was named National Player of the Year and a consensus All-American thanks to an extreme jump in improvement, boosting his scoring average by nearly nine points, his rebounding total by nearly three per game while setting what was then a program record in blocked shots. The Bearcats went 29-4 that season and were ranked No. 1 in the country for 12 weeks of the season.
He developed in front of our eyes
As I alluded to above, Martin took great strides as a senior, becoming an All-American in the span of four years. As a freshman, he was a raw and athletic talent who defended well but wasn’t much of a scorer. Even in 1998-99 he was nowhere near the level he would demonstrate as a senior, averaging 10.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
He stayed for four years
Martin considered making the jump to the NBA after his junior season. It turns out that it was an excellent decision not to, both for the Bearcats and Martin himself. If he had gone earlier, there’s no way he would have been the No. 1 overall pick like he was in the 2000 NBA Draft. Elton Brand was taken first in the 1999 draft and Martin would have likely fallen much lower.
He was a mainstay in the NBA
Even if what he did after UC obviously had no tangible effect on the program’s on court success, there’s no doubt that becoming such a familiar and productive professional player just made his stock rise among Bearcat fans. Over the course of 15 seasons, Martin played for five teams, including his All-Star season of 2003-04, a year after he helped lead the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals.
Well the favorite player of UC basketball has been decided. Agree? Tell us why Martin is your favorite player in the comments. Disagree? Let us know who your favorite player ever is in a FanPost or the comments.