Kansas basketball forward Cam Martin emerging as a leader among Jayhawk newcomers

Kansas newcomer Cam Martin watches a shot go up as he works with campers at Washburn head coach Brett Ballard's basketball camp on Wednesday, June 9, 2021 at Lee Arena in Topeka.

Cam Martin has officially been a Jayhawk for about four days. But he already has seen some of his younger teammates look to him for leadership.

Tuesday, during KU’s first day of summer workouts, it was Martin, as much as anyone, who did his best to help bring the large number of newcomers up to speed on what it takes to play college basketball.

“It was a lot of teaching from the older guys to us and especially Cam,” freshman forward KJ Adams said Wednesday during a break at Washburn Basketball camp in Topeka. “He was teaching us like he’s been here for four years.”

While that certainly is not the case, Martin has been playing college ball for that long. A three-time Division II All-American at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo., Martin spent the past few years developing his game and stacking his memory bank with nuggets of wisdom that should help him with the transition.

The 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward who is big enough to play down low and skilled enough to play pick-and-pop on the perimeter believes his past experiences will help him at KU.

But as much as the super senior has been happy to help his younger teammates with their adjustments to leaving home for the first time, Martin knows his game is going to have to be sharp to see his success transfer to Kansas.

That, he believes, will come in time, as he learns the system, gels with teammates and figures out exactly what KU coach Bill Self wants from him.

For now, it’s about making sure guys are comfortable around each other.

“It’s definitely going to take some time just to build some chemistry with everybody and to get to know each other,” Martin said Wednesday. “But we all seem like we’re clicking well, everybody gets along, and I’m really excited to move forward and for the season.”

While starting another offseason and locking in on his individual growth is old hat for Martin, the Texas native who played his high school ball in Oklahoma said Wednesday that he, too, has experienced plenty of firsts since arriving at Kansas.

“I’ve got like three fingerprint checks just to get to my room,” he said. “At my old apartment, we used to always leave the house unlocked. So it’s a big difference with that for sure.”

Martin is scheduled to room with Jalen Wilson. And with Wilson still exploring his NBA draft status, their dorm has been all Martin’s so far.

That has hardly mattered, though. Several of the KU newcomers who were at Washburn camp this week said the biggest thing that stood out to them about their first week in Lawrence was how quickly the team bonded.

“I had this theory like they’re just going to (keep) to themselves,” said Adams of KU’s veteran players like Mitch Lightfoot, David McCormack, Christian Braun and others. “But they (have gone) out their way to be family to us, so they’ve been hanging out with us and teaching us the ins and outs, what not to do, what to do and stuff like that. So it’s been great.”

Adams said that vibe has been particularly helpful for the freshmen — himself, Zach Clemence, Kyle Cuffe Jr., Bobby Pettiford and walk-ons Charlie McCarthy and Dillon Wilhite — who not only are trying to find their way as basketball players but also are still adjusting to saying goodbye to mom and dad.

“Cam has more experience than everybody here, all the freshmen, so he’s teaching us how things go, and we’ve got people like Mitch and Dave who have been here, on KU’s campus, (helping us, too) so it’s kind of like we’re having the best days you can get as a freshman.”


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