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Alford Likes the Effort Shown by Martinez

By Mark Smith
Journal Staff Writer
    Strong and physical. Not two of the first words that come to mind when describing Roman Martinez of the University of New Mexico men's basketball team.
    But the Lobos could use a little of Martinez's influence to become stronger and more physical on Wednesday against New Mexico State.
    The Lobos (9-2) were pounded on the glass by the Aggies (5-7) in a 71-62 loss at Las Cruces on Dec. 4. Martinez wasn't exactly an enforcer either that game, bagging just two boards.
    But the slender 6-foot-6, 185-pound wing's gritty style of play is exactly what the Lobos need this go-round against NMSU.
    "I think the guys appreciate Roman's style," says UNM coach Steve Alford. "Ro is somebody who can do a lot of things for us. He can shoot the ball, he can score. But he sacrifices so much for his teammates. That becomes infectious, and other guys say 'if he's diving on the floor, if he's doing this and that, I should be, too.' He's got a real good feel for the game.''
    Martinez matched a career-best seven boards in the Lobos' 80-63 win against Texas Tech on Saturday in the Pit. He also led the team in assists with six and in "times hitting the floor," Alford said.
    "I've got some battle scars," says Martinez, a sophomore. "I probably hit it like 20 times, but not necessary all good times. Sometimes I'm getting pushed on the floor. But I'm not afraid to get on the ground. It's a big factor in my game."
    Martinez has many attributes to his game. Alford says he understands it better than any Lobo and has great fundamentals.
    "Being 6-6, being left-handed, he's got some things going for him," Alford says. "What I see out of him, I hope, is what you're seeing out of (junior) Chad Toppert this year. Toppert's body looks different now (having added about 20 pounds of muscle) than a year ago, and I hope Ro's does the same.
    "Of all the guys on the team, he's probably got the best feel," Alford says. "He's not the most athletic, not the strongest, not the fastest or quickest. But as far as understanding the game, he'll make a pass fake, he'll make a bounce pass instead of chest pass when it's called for. He always gets rebounds and a tip-back every game. He's usually in the right place at the right time."
    One of Martinez's traits is the no-look pass. He does it on almost every dish, but is not trying to be a hot dog. For Martinez, it's just another part of the game in which he can gain an edge.
    "Sometimes I don't even know I'm doing it," Martinez says. "I'm not a show-boating player. If I feel a man trying to get the ball, I try to look the other way and get him to move the other way.
    "But I've got to limit my no-look passes; it's not a good thing to do all the time," he says with a slight smile. "Coach is probably going to see that soon and tell me that's not a good thing to do. One turnover, and he'll be on me pretty hard."
    So far, so good for Martinez, who is averaging fewer than one turnover a game.
    "He's just really fundamentally sound," Alford says. "The mistakes he makes, he knows right away. We've got some guys who have made mistakes, and they still haven't figured out the mistakes they've made."
    HIT AND MISS: Senior Jamaal Smith, despite losing his starting spot at point guard, is leading the team in 3-point shooting at 56.0 percent (14-25). He is also hitting an outstanding 62.5 percent from the floor (35-56)— second only to post Johnnie Harris (25-34 for 73.5 percent).
    While Harris takes nearly all of his shots under the basket, so too does 6-10 post Monquel Pegues. But Pegues is shooting a Senque Carey-esqe 18.2 percent from the field (8-44).
    NOTES: The Lobos had 18 turnovers in their first meeting with NMSU and were outrebounded 44-28. On Tuesday, they worked exclusively on ball-handling and rebounding for the first hour of practice.
    ... Highland High junior Chad Adams has been offered a scholarship to play for the Lobos, according to Marty Saiz, the coordinator of Adamsí AAU team.
    ... The Lobos received one vote in this week's AP Top 25, that from a writer at the Indianapolis Star.