By Jeff Owens/Photo by Allen Sharpe
Brandon Martin grew up watching the South Carolina Gamecocks play at Colonial Life Arena.
He went to practice almost every day and sat in the stands for the team’s home games. But he never dreamed he would one day get the chance to play there.
Not against his dad.
When Brandon Martin took the floor for USC Upstate at CLA Tuesday night, his dad, Gamecock head coach Frank Martin, was across the way on the opposing bench.
It was an exciting and emotional night for father and son.
“It was exciting to play my first college game,” said Brandon, who scored six points in 18 minutes in his college debut. “I was a little bit nervous, especially playing against my dad. I just treated it as another game. I prepared real hard for this and it feels good just to come back and have all my family and friends come to my game and cheer me on.”
Martin talked to his son before the game but was so locked in after his team’s 65-52 win he almost overlooked him when shaking hands with the Upstate players and coaches. But he made sure to spend a minute with his son.
“I didn’t want to separate him from his team at that moment, but at the same time, I needed to make sure he knew that I am extremely proud of who he has become and who he has grown into and to stay the course,” Frank Martin said. “He’s earning their coach’s trust. That’s why he played.”
Brandon, a 6-5 forward, played high school basketball at Cardinal Newman High School in Columbia before going to prep school in Connecticut. He surprised his dad when he landed a scholarship to play at USC Upstate.
“I am really proud of him,” Frank Martin said. “He has worked really hard. Five years ago, if you had told me he would play Division I basketball, I would have said absolutely zero chance. To see him out there playing well … I don’t know their strategies or what they are expecting to do … but to see him play with the aggression and courage that he played with, that’s who I am and it makes me proud to see my son doing that.”
Martin called his son a few days before the game to give him some advise about his college debut, especially playing at CLA before family and friends and the team he used to hang around with.
What did he tell his him?
“To trust in his coaches,” Martin said. “I told him, always remember this: Those are the coaches that believed in you and offered you a scholarship. They didn’t believe in you to make you worse. They thought you could help and they could help you grow. Regardless of how you play, how much you play, those guys are in your corner. Listen to them and do what they ask you to do because they are trying to help you succeed.”