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Martinez wants to extend family legacy

Former Lobo hopes to be eligible to join Team Mexico

Basketball is in Roman Martinez’s blood.

Now those bloodlines – ones lined with traces of Olympic bronze won by his grandfather in Berlin, Germany, in 1936 – may be landing the former New Mexico Lobo on Mexico’s national basketball team.

The 25-year-old Martinez, who this month moved to Ohio where his fiancée will be attending veterinarian school, has submitted to the FIBA, the governing body of international basketball, documentation he hopes clears him to join Team Mexico for the upcoming Copa Super 4 tournament in Brazil.

“The goal is to continue my grandpa’s legacy and try to be a part of a national team,” Martinez said. “The more I thought about it, it means more to me right now. I hope to carry on what he started.”

Kiko Martinez, who played at New Mexico A&M, helped Mexico win an Olympic medal. (Courtesy of NMSU)

Kiko Martinez, who played at New Mexico A&M, helped Mexico win an Olympic medal. (Courtesy of NMSU)

Before becoming a hall of famer at New Mexico A&M, now New Mexico State University, Francisco “Kiko” Martinez won a bronze medal for Team Mexico in 1936. He and other members of the 1936 team gained legendary status in basketball circles around Mexico.

Roman Martinez, who starred at Montwood High in El Paso then for the Lobos from 2006-10, recently signed a two-year extension to continue his professional basketball career with Soles de Mexicali of the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional. While he has dual citizenship in the United States and Mexico, he said national teams are limited to one dual-citizen player and Team Mexico’s spot in that category is already filled by Orlando Mendez-Valdez.

Further, according to FIBA rule 3-23, any player who obtains citizenship after the age of 17, as is the case with Roman Martinez, is ineligible to compete for that country. But the rules also allow appeal to the FIBA Secretary General for a variety of reasons, including when one can provide “criteria capable of establishing a significant link between the player and the country for the national team of which he wishes to play.”

Carrying on the legacy of your national hero grandfather is that link, Roman Martinez and his family are hoping for.

Part of the documentation Roman Martinez has been lining up and sent last month to FIBA were old newspaper clippings of his grandfather.

Finding articles about the basketball exploits of “Kiko” Martinez wasn’t all that difficult.

“Yeah, Kiko was his nickname,” Roman said with a chuckle. “That’s what everyone called him, but we called him Pops.

“The night I decided to send all the paperwork, I went to visit my grandma in El Paso and I saw a picture of my grandpa – a picture of Pops. I just had this feeling looking at that, it was meant to be.”

Roman Martinez said he’s confident he’ll get the clearance to play and is leaving this week for Brazil and plans to play later this month for the national team in Argentina and in FIBA World Championship qualifying events.

Roman Martinez used newspaper articles of his grandfather in his push to gain eligibility for Team Mexico. (Courtesy of Roman Martinez)

Roman Martinez used newspaper articles of his grandfather in his push to gain eligibility for Team Mexico. (Courtesy of Roman Martinez)

He characterized to the Journal the official status of his eligibility appeal “in the process of final approval.” His flight to Brazil to join the team has already been booked.

He also said spending the time with his family collecting articles to send to FIBA telling the story of his grandfather’s exploits was an inspiring process.

One of the articles Roman Martinez sent FIBA that was published in a Spanish-language newspaper had the headline: “Don Francisco Martinez, hoy una leyenda del basquetbol” or translated into Don Francisco Martinez, today a basketball legend.

“Reading these newspaper articles was amazing,” Roman Martinez said. “We had this one article about his legacy and how he’s a legend in Mexico. And we also took pictures of some of the awards that he’s received from the Olympics and in Mexico. It was all pretty amazing, really.”

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