Capital vs WW

Capital’s Kerry Martin Jr. ignites the fast break against Woodrow Wilson.

It’s no coincidence that as Kerry Martin Jr. has evolved into a dynamic point guard that Capital’s play has greatly improved down the stretch run.

Martin, a 6-foot-2 junior perhaps known more for his exploits on the football field as the Cougars’ All-State quarterback, seems to have turned the corner from a hoops player oozing with promise and potential into a bona fide star. His last three games bear that out.

Starting with the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship game on Feb. 17, Martin has turned in the three highest-scoring games of his career right in a row as the regular season concluded.

Martin had 28 points in Capital’s 82-70 win against Huntington in the MSAC finals, then followed it with 32 points during an 82-68 victory versus Logan and finally 21 points in the Cougars’ 111-83 conquest of Spring Valley.

Not only was he scoring points like never before, but Martin was supremely efficient, hitting 24 of 39 shots in the first two games of that stretch while dishing out several assists. After years of settling for jumpers, Martin now attacks the rim with a vengeance, weaving his game into an inside-outside mix that can defy defenses.

“Absolutely,’’ said Capital coach Matt Greene. “Those are all things he’s been working on continuously since his freshman year.

“Kerry never played point guard until the high school level, and the last two years when Leondre’ Rogers [a former All-Stater] is ahead of you, it’s a little bit of a curse and stunted his growth because Leondre’ was so great. Kerry was able to learn, and now this year as the season goes along, it’s all started to come together.’’

Martin missed the team’s first three games this season and came off the bench for a couple more because he originally opted to give up basketball in order to concentrate full-time on a potential Division I football career. He’s already received five D-1 scholarship offers — Cincinnati, Howard, Marshall, Miami (Ohio) and Toledo.

But since his return to the hardwood, Martin has gradually taken the reins of the team and driven the Cougars to 10 wins in their last 12 games (though one victory was later forfeited).

“He’s been working on when to shoot,’’ Greene said, “when to go, when to drive. He’s shot the ball much better. He stays after practice and shoots. He’s put in time with film. All of that has shown in games, and with his decision-making. You can tell it in the team’s play.’’

Capital takes a 13-7 record and the state’s No. 4 ranking into Wednesday’s home game against St. Albans, one of the opening games of the Class AAA Region 3 Section 1 event. The Cougars are seeded first in the sectional, ahead of fellow state-ranked teams such as No. 3 George Washington (17-3) and No. 10 South Charleston (13-8).

Martin, who has bumped his scoring average up to 14.3 points, credits that extra work for the blossoming of his game.

“It’s the confidence,’’ he said. “I’ve just put in more hours in the gym, coming off football to basketball. It takes me a little while to get the rust off.

“Me and Coach Greene have been in the gym a lot, and I’ve even been working on my free throws a little bit more. It’s been working out.’’

Greene doesn’t hesitate to call Martin a Division I talent in basketball as well as football.

“I think Kerry is a Division I point guard if he applies himself in that area,’’ Greene said. “He puts in the time during the season. [Participating in] the football camps and combines obviously take away from him, stunt his skill development [in basketball].

“Playing the point guard position, you’ve got to read defenses, hit the open shots and he’s growing into that. There’s no doubt in my mind he could play college basketball if he chose to.’’

Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RickRyanWV.