The NCAA Transfer Portal merry-go-round since Craig Smith was hired at the University of Utah stopped Tuesday morning at one of the program’s most-promising young players.
Ian Martinez, a hyper-athletic, still-raw freshman guard, has entered the transfer portal, a source with access to the database told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Martinez played in all 25 games, averaging 5.2 points on 49.5% shooting in just 15.8 minutes per game, but his play improved and his role increased as the season went along. His performance in a double-overtime loss to USC in a Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal gave everyone something to think about, his career-high 18 points coming on 7-for-10 shooting in 29 minutes.
Martinez opting for the transfer portal may indicate that his father, Henry Martinez, will not be retained on staff by Smith. Former Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak did not shy away from the notion that he hired Henry in an effort to facilitate Ian’s commitment in the spring of 2019 as a four-star, top-100 recruit out of JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Multiple sources told The Tribune on Monday that Martinez was not expected to be retained as an assistant coach, but that there was a possibility he could be brought back in an administrative or support staff role.
Smith’s coaching staff consists of UNLV assistant DeMarlo Slocum and his No. 1 assistant at Utah State Eric Peterson, while the third assistant spot and the director of basketball operations role are still officially TBD.
“We’re obviously building relationships with their family, and with Ian, and just working through everything that way,” Smith told The Tribune late last week about the Martinez situation. “I can’t speak for Ian or his family because I don’t know exactly what they’re thinking, but we’re going to do our due diligence to develop a relationship, like we have with all of the guys. We’re not really approaching things from that respect. We just look at Ian like we look at any other guy that’s in our program and we’re going to help make him the best that he can be. Nothing’s been determined in that respect. I’ve heard that scuttlebutt, so to speak, but haven’t felt that up to this point.”
In interviews throughout his first 10 days on the job, Smith has set a tone when talking about the portal, and general roster volatility as his tenure unfolds. His public stance has essentially been, if a player wants to be here, that’s great, but if a player doesn’t want to be here, that’s fine, too.
That measured take on the transfer portal echoes much of what Krystkowiak said publicly in regards to players opting to leave Utah in recent seasons.
As of Tuesday morning, there were five Utes in the transfer portal, Martinez, Norbert Theliseen, Timmy Allen, Alfonso Plummer, and Jordan Kellier. Allen and Plummer both met with Smith upon his arrival late last month, but there has been no indication that either player intends to return in 2021-22.