Syracuse coach Rob Reisbeck is still preparing for the day when he’ll walk into the gym to start a new season and Brittney Martin won’t be there.
The ever-upbeat, ever-grinning forward is magnetic on the court.
"Even in eighth grade, I could see that she was going to be one of the best players to ever play in Utah," he said. "It’s going to be weird without her."
By the end of last summer, the 5-foot-11 Martin was ESPN’s No. 18 senior prospect, had committed to Oklahoma State and was widely considered a must-watch player in the West. But one thing haunted her: losing the 2011 title game to Alta.
"She took it upon herself that everybody did what they were supposed to do," Reisbeck said. "… She just wasn’t going to be denied."
Martin wasn’t always the statistical leader, but she was the unquestioned heart of the Titans as they got their second undefeated season in three years and beat every opponent by double digits.
She always seemed to put down a big shot, come up with a momentum-killing steal or be the one to lead a stunning fast break. Opponents struggled to stop her, and teammates fed off her energy.
"I kinda tried to get my teammates more involved, and make sure everybody was scoring instead of just a few people," Martin said. "I couldn’t win games without them."
Behind the scenes, Martin dealt with an unimaginable loss, as she mourned Oklahoma State coaches who died in a plane crash a week after she signed her letter of intent. Reisbeck recalled that she was devastated, but stayed strong in front of her teammates.
The Titans got their championship back. Martin secured a legacy in which she lost only five games in her four-year varsity career.
"I think she’s far from done with what she’ll accomplish — not just in basketball but life in general," Reisbeck says. "The sky is the limit with her."
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