Zane Martin (above) starred at Towson for two years before transferring to New Mexico. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Kevin Callahan (@CP_KCallahan)
Zane Martin left.
However, Towson coach Pat Skerry welcomed the former Neumann-Goretti High School star back like the Prodigal Son.
“He is a very good player and we were disappointed when he left, it hurt,” Skerry said this week about Martin, who transferred to New Mexico after two seasons with the Tigers.
After a redshirt season and playing last year for the Lobos, Martin reached out to one of Skerry’s assistant coaches. The wheels to move back East were in motion.
“We talked and he said he missed Towson, and to me that said a lot about him,” Skerry said. “As a coach, you do develop relationships with players, so I’m not sure why we would want to hold grudges.
“Hey I’m a coach, I make the most mistakes since I make the most decisions.”
Skerry didn’t pretend to just be a good guy, an understanding coach, a father who has his own children.
“And he is a good player,” Skerry said.
Skerry, who took over a floundering program in 2011 after 15-straight losing seasons, has proven to be a really good coach. He has elevated the Tigers to 18 wins entering this season in six of the last eight years.
The Tigers are coming off a 19-win season and a third-place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Now, with Martin back …
“He has the opportunity to help us get somewhere that we haven’t been,” Skerry said, “he could help us cut down the nets.”
As a sophomore, Martin posted Towson’s seventh all-time best for points scored in a single season with 635 in 2017-18 before transferring.
“It was the right place for me all along,” Martin said about returning to the public university in Maryland.
Martin, who topped 1,000 career points for the Saints, played on three-straight PIAA Class AAA championships at Neumann-Goretti. As a senior for coach Carl Arrigale, he averaged 22 points, six rebounds and six assists, securing all-city and all-state accolades.
“I was around some highly recruited players coming out of high school,” said Martin, who netted 33 points against Mars in the 2016 state championship win.
As a freshman for Skerry, Martin played in 33 games with one start against James Madison, and scored in double figures six times, including 23 points at Hofstra.
In his second season at the school formerly known as Towson State, Martin was named to the All-CAA Second Team and NABC All-District 10 Second Team as he averaged a team-high 19.8 points, which was third in the CAA.
He reached double figures in 30 of the Tigers' 32 games while averaging 3.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists a game. He netted 20 points in 18 games and three games of 30 or more points, including a 21-game streak scoring double digits and becoming the first Tiger to bang consecutive games of 30 or more points since 2007.
Martin tied a SECU Arena record of 35-points against William & Mary. He followed with scoring 30 of his 32 points against Elon in the second half to become the only Towson player to score at least 30 points in a half. He set a sophomore school record with 36 points against Hofstra.
That was a lot of points to leave.
“He’s incredibly gifted with the ball,” Skerry said. “He has the ability to score it and he’s an exceptional play maker. He’s just a hard guy to guard.”
After sitting out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Martin started 18 of 33 games for the Lobos, averaging 10.1 points and 3.1 assists a game. He ranked in the top-10 in Mountain West conference play in several categories, including fourth in assist/turnover ratio (1.86), eighth in assists per game (3.61) and ninth in steals per game (1.33).
Martin, who reached 1,000 points in his college career last January against UNLV, posted 15 double-digit scoring games. He scored 18 points in four of five games in late January and early February.
“It was a good experience at New Mexico, so I think all in all, it was just meant to be,” said Martin, who was a member of the Mountain West Academic All-Conference Team as well as helping New Mexico win 19 games last year.
Skerry has a perfect graduation rate since he became Towson’s head coach with 25 players earning degrees, which certainly didn’t go unnoticed by Martin, a communications major.
But he isn’t looking at starting his communications career too soon.
“Of course, I want to do everything I can do to help Towson and the program and then see what’s next,” Martin said.
Skerry understands Martin wants to be the best player he can be and go as far as he can in the game. He feels he can do both at Towson.
“We’ve had guys going on to play and we had one who had a cup of coffee in the NBA," said Skerry, who won his 100th career game as Towson’s coach against Penn in 2017.
Martin embraces the support of his parents - Eric and Bibi - through the double transfer.
“I’m glad to have my father in my life to always keep me motivated and pushing and I feel I push myself,” said Martin, who added his mother “absolutely” supported him as well.
Martin also appreciates Skerry’s open arms.
“Absolutely, I was always comfortable there,” Martin said. “I was welcomed coming back.
“Coach pushes you every day to be a better person and player.”
Skerry is excited to push Martin again.
“We’re not going to coach him any differently than before,” Skerry said. “Obviously, we’re going to try to coach him hard.”
Martin returned to Towson in mid-summer. He knew he made the right decision right away.
“When I saw Coach,” Martin said, “it was all smiles and hugs."