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Knight's path led him back home

On College Hoops
by: ©2006 SCOTT THOMPSON, Jalonta Martin went to community colleges in the Midwest before enrolling at Warner Pacific, where he has shined for the Cascade Conference-champion Knights.

It's home sweet home for Jalonta Martin, the Warner Pacific standout who returned from the heartland to help his local college team make the NAIA Division II tournament.

'I've been on team after team and never found a home,' the 2002 Jefferson High grad says. 'We've been breaking records at Warner Pacific, and it's a wonderful school.'

The Knights (27-5) won the Cascade Conference championship game Tuesday night, beating Eastern Oregon 58-51. They'll open the 32-team national tournament in Point Lookout, Mo., with a Thursday game against unranked Friends University (20-11) of Wichita, Kan. Martin knows something about that area of the country.

He played a season at Western Nebraska Community College. He played a season at Fort Scott CC in Kansas. After a year off working with Self Enhancement Inc., he looked to play at Northwest Missouri State, but he opted to stay close to home.

His mother's battle with stomach cancer has intensified. So he stayed home and joined the Warner Pac team.

'She was going to have a lot of surgeries,' Martin says of his mother, Carol Martin. 'I could stop everything and take care of her, if I stayed here. My dad works a lot, and I'm the next man in charge.

'She's a fighter. I try to live every day and fight just like her.'

Knights coach Bart Valentine says Martin was clearly the best athlete in the Cascade Conference. He's a difference maker at the NAIA level, a 6-6 player who can play some point guard and down low and run the court - and jump out of the gym.

'We had to have that athleticism,' Valentine says.

In a Cascade tourney game against Evergreen State, Martin had 27 points, eight rebounds, eight steals and five assists. He's averaging 16 points and seven rebounds, complementing Warner Pac's dynamic guards, Scott O'Gallagher and Josh Jackson.

'His athleticism makes up for a lot of things,' O'Gallagher says.

Martin doesn't shoot free throws well (54 percent) and leads the team in turnovers, but the pluses vastly outnumber the minuses.

Martin has been playing with a sore Achilles tendon lately, but it won't prevent him from playing hard at nationals.

Martin says he has bonded with teammates, although he hasn't necessarily befriended all of them. Interestingly, he says of O'Gallagher, the Knights' point guard who averages 24 points a game:

'We're not the best of buds. At times we might bump heads, but it's nothing we can't get over. The No. 1 cause is the team. We both have love for the game and respect for each other. If we're good, bad or in-between (with each other), we got to keep it together and lead by example. There are things that he does well, I do well and Josh Jackson does well, and it's up to us to incorporate it and bring everybody else in.'

Martin says he had the opportunity to play (in some capacity) with the And 1 Mix Tape Tour team, a traveling basketball show that features Grayson 'the Professor' Boucher. But he wanted to continue playing college basketball.

'I want to get my degree and teach little kids,' he says.

Notes

Oregon and OSU wrap up the Pac-10 regular-season at 3 p.m. Saturday at McArthur Court (OSN). Some notes and quotes:

Oregon's Aaron Brooks has found his stroke. He hit 26 of 52 shots (.500) in the past three games, compared with 18 of 61 (.295) in the previous five. … Backcourt mate Tajuan Porter continues to excel with his unconscious jumpers, dribbling, toughness and leadership. He needs one 3-pointer to tie Jason Kapono's Pac-10 freshman record (82). What a find the 5-6 Detroit kid is. 'He has an instinct that goes beyond what I have the ability to coach,' coach Ernie Kent says. … The Ducks have committed 10 turnovers or fewer in the past five games and average only 12 per game. … Maarty Leunen 'has his legs back' after battling big guys all season, Kent says, but the Ducks still need good minutes from Joevan Catron and other bigs in the postseason. … The Ducks hit 34 of 40 free throws against Washington, and have shot worse than 70 percent only twice in Pac-10 play. … UO has an 18-2 record when holding opponents to .500 shooting or worse. … Kent talks up slumping Chamberlain Oguchi, saying his 3-point shooting 'can change the game and elevate us - nobody in the country has a guy like that,' he says. Really? … The Ducks average 25 3-pointers per game; curiously, UO has a 13-2 record when shooting 25 threes or fewer, 9-5 with 26 or more. …

Oregon State is 0-9 against ranked teams and is riding a 13-game losing streak at Mac Court. … Amazingly, given OSU's shooting woes, the Beavs shot .517 in the 76-73 loss to Oregon on Dec. 30. But they were 8 for 14 at the free-throw line. … OSU is locked into the No. 9 spot for the Pac-10 tournament, and meets either Cal or Washington. … Marcel Jones leads in points (15.2), and he has scored 20 more eight times. … Josh Tarver leads all Pac-10 freshmen in assists (4.0) and minutes played (33.5). He's the fourth OSU player to ever notch 100 or more assists. … Kyle Jeffers leads the Pac-10, shooting .578 in league games. … The Beavs shot .421 from the free-throw line during a seven-game losing streak, and .710 in the past five games.

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