From player to coach, Martin a Western Md. fixture Women's coach finds Div. III niche

February 14, 1993|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff Writer

Green Terrors women's basketball coach Becky Martin remembers wandering around the Western Maryland campus with friends back in her high school days at Westminster High in the mid-'70s.

On one occasion, they found themselves jumping around in the high-jump pit. The following spring, Martin was competing in the high jump on Westminster's track team.

But it was basketball -- which she first began playing competitively her sophomore year at Westminster -- that ended up bringing her to Western Maryland College as a freshman in 1976.

The 34-year-old Westminster native has been a fixture with the women's basketball program since. After receiving her bachelor's and master's degrees in physical education, she came on board as a physical education instructor and assistant track coach, along with taking the head coaching job in basketball.

It began with a four-year playing career that saw her become the first woman in school history to surpass 1,000 points. Now she's in her 13th season as head coach.

Not bad considering she didn't really plan on going to college after her high school days.

"I wasn't really sure whether I wanted to go on to college. I was more concerned about being on my own and finding a job. And then spring rolled around and I wasn't ready to give up athletics," Martin said.

"One of the reasons I ended up at Western Maryland was because I had not thoroughly searched out all my choices. Carol Fritz came to see me play at Westminster and encouraged me to enroll at Western Maryland. I knew it was a quality

academic school and being so close to home, everything fell into place."

For Fritz, at the time the women's basketball coach and now the school's associate athletic director, it's a recruit who still is paying big dividends.

"She was one of the very best basketball players I've ever coached," Fritz said.

"She's also done a very good job coaching. We've had our ups and downs recently in basketball, but definitely more ups."

Martin enjoys coaching at the Division III level. The challenges are different than at Division I or II because of the lack of scholarships. A certain emphasis remains on winning, but Martin is proud that the members of her team have a higher grade-point average this year than the general student population.

"My background is in Division III, and I really believe in the philosophy we have at Western Maryland of student-athlete first," she said.

"Students can take advantage of quality academics and have the opportunity to participate in sports -- which is an important aspect. It's the overall experience of being successful in the classroom and playing basketball that's the total package we offer."

Martin's best season coaching came in 1988-89 when the Green Terrors finished 20-5, reaching the Middle Atlantic Conference semifinals for the first time. She was named the MAC-Southern ** Division Coach of the Year.

She said the 1990-91 season, in which the team finished 11-12, also was one to remember.

"We had just eight players on the team that year, and no one thought we'd come close to winning 11 games," she said.

"It was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. Everyone pulled together and worked hard. That team had a lot of heart."

Her name still appears in the record books as a player. Two other players sinced have passed her on the all-time scoring list, but she still owns the record for most points in a game -- closing her career with 39 points in a playoff loss to Ursinus.

She also owns the record for most points in a season, with 482. A win against Mount Vernon in which she went over the 1,000-point mark will be remembered most.

The game turned out to be the most lopsided victory in Western Maryland history, 114-10. Martin needed 34 points to surpass 1,000 points.

"As I approached the milestone, I didn't really understand the ramifications of it until I started receiving calls from newspapers," she said.

"It was a great honor. It was the first time we ever played Mount Vernon, and we didn't really know what to expect. It worked out well because we were going to be on the road the next couple of weeks and I was glad to be able to do it on our home court."

Said Fritz: "All the kids were throwing her the ball, but Becky, being the unselfish player she was, threw it back to them. Finally, one of the players told her to 'shoot the darn ball.' "

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