Senior Zane Martin says he's leaving UNM basketball - Albuquerque Journal

Senior Zane Martin says he’s leaving UNM basketball

UNM Lobo Zane Martin left goes for a layup while being defended by San Jose State Spartan Kaison Hammonds during a Jan. 21 game at Dreamstyle Arena -The Pit. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Citing uncertainty around sports in New Mexico and the Mountain West Conference, Zane Martin, the Lobo basketball team’s leading returning scorer for the coming season, announced Tuesday morning he is transferring out of the program.

“The uncertainty around sports in the State of New Mexico and the Mountain West Conference, and also my own personal physical and mental safety, have made it impossible for me to stay here,” Martin wrote in a social media post about his decision.

Said Lobos head coach Paul Weir in a prepared statement released after Martin made his announcement, “I am totally supportive of Zane’s decision and we wish him all the best going forward. We are in incredibly uncertain times and his health and happiness is our top priority.”

The 6-foot-4 senior guard from Philadelphia started 18 games last season, including all but two conference games, was set to be the team’s leading returning scorer (10.1 points per game) and was also second returning leader in assist-to-turnover ratio in league games.

The Journal connected with Martin on Tuesday morning and is hoping to talk with him more about his time as a Lobo and decision to leave soon, though he declined further comment for now other than what he already wrote and shared.

Martin posted on his social media accounts Tuesday morning an image with a message that read, in full:

“These past two years have been a blessing that I am beyond grateful for. I want to say thank you to everyone who has been a part of my journey in Albuquerque and throughout my time at the University of New Mexico.

“Unfortunately, due to things outside my control, it has come to a point where I have to move on. The uncertainty around sports in the State of New Mexico and the Mountain West Conference, and also my own personal physical and mental safety, have made it impossible for me to stay here. I have loved my time here but God has other plans and I will follow them.

“Thank you to all my coaches, teammates, and fans. I will never ever forget how special it was to be a Lobo and will cheer the team on from afar as they do great things (in the) future. I will be entering my name in the transfer portal and finding a new school to finish my degree and college career.

“Thank you all and Go Lobos.”

Martin, the thickly built, physical shooting guard who was forced into a point guard role for much of the past season, would have been this season’s only Lobo other than Makuach Maluach (33 starts) who started more than two games last season. The rest of the Lobo roster as currently constructed had a total of five starts for UNM last season — Keith McGee (2, though he did start 12 times in the 2018-19 season), Kurt Wegscheider (2) and Jordan Arroyo (1).

Martin averaged 19.8 points per game as a sophomore at Towson three years ago before transferring to UNM, sitting out the 2018-19 season and then becoming one of the most productive players on this past season’s roster.

In 33 games, Martin averaged for UNM 10.1 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals. In conference play, his 1.9 assists-per-turnover ratio was fourth best in the Mountain West, behind 2020 Player of the Year and AP All-American Malachi Flynn of San Diego State, 2019 MWC Player of the Year Sam Merrill of Utah State and 2020 MWC Freshman of the Year Isaiah Stevens of Colorado State.

In a 2019 interview with the Journal, Martin said he likens his physical approach to the game to being football player, adding it’s a “Philly thing.”

“I feel like my mind-set is more aggressive – my mentality,” Martin said. “I just always want to go out there and kill. I feel like that’s more of a football mentality. That’s how I was brought up. Hard-nosed, bulldog type stuff like that.”

Two weeks ago, the Lobos thought that all 13 of their NCAA-allowed scholarships were taken for the 2020-21 men’s basketball season. Martin’s departure and the shooting death of national top-100 recruit and J.B. White means two of those scholarships are open.

Meanwhile, the coming season is under a cloud of uncertainty amid ongoing coronavirus pandemic issues in general and the Mountain West’s announcement on Monday to postpone fall sports due to safety concerns. While there was not a mention of delaying winter sports, signs have been pointing toward a possibility of college basketball being delayed until at least January or sometime in the spring 2021 semester.

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