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Rafael Martinez Q&A

Updated: Jun 11, 2022

Credit: @hoopmajorhm (IG)

To kick off the 2021-22 season, the nation’s largest prep event, ZG Prep Classic, brought over 60 elite prep programs together under one roof at the Dana Barros Basketball Club in Stoughton, Massachusetts. Pro Insight was on hand to cover the three-day event. Shortly after, we caught up with Rafael Martinez of Williston Northampton School (MA).

A native of Geneva, Switzerland, Martinez has already put together an impressive basketball resume. After initially looking to play soccer professionally as a youngster, Martinez switched over to basketball after seeing an NBA game on TV. His rapid climb up the local ranks propelled Martinez from clubs in Switzerland to JDA Dijon in France, where he played two seasons before coming to the United States to play for Williston Northampton in an effort to reach his collegiate and NBA goals. With the ZG Prep Classic being his first official action on U.S. soil this season, Martinez did not disappoint. Standing all of 6’7” with a strong 215-pound frame, Martinez highlighted his two-way versatility in front of a number of college coaches.

As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Martinez discussed his unique basketball journey, his love of learning, what motivates him to work hard, his recruitment update, what he brings to a team, and much more.

For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect Rafael Martinez, from Geneva, Switzerland:

Pro Insight: How did you get to where you are today?

RM: So I started playing basketball at 13 years old. I stopped playing soccer and was like ‘I want to start playing basketball’ after watching an NBA game on TV. Things went really fast. I went to a club in Geneva, Switzerland, because that’s where I’m from. I did one year at a small club, then I went to a bigger one in Geneva and then they created an academy for Geneva’s prospects. So every year I changed clubs and after my third year, when I was 15 years old, I got recruited by a French club, JDA Dijon, where I played for two years. But since my third year in Switzerland, the goal was to play D1 basketball. So I signed [with JDA Dijon] for two years so when I graduated I could directly go to college. So I graduated last July so I could go directly to college, but because of COVID-19 I couldn’t play much last year. So the guy I was working with told me to take a post-grad year and go to Williston. I had a meeting with Coach Farmer — who is a super coach — we have a good connection and I really like the way he coaches. We had a couple zoom meetings and I said, “yeah, let’s go.” I felt good with it. I love it, it’s been three months since I’ve been here and I’ve really improved a lot with basketball and outside the court. It’s a good place with good people, so that’s how I got here.

PI: To clarify — you were hoping to be in college by now but COVID caused you to pivot to post-grad?

RM: Yeah, I had multiple interests and still have interest now. The thing is the game I played was in October and the recruiting process started in April/May so it was kind of late. Because the games I played were in October, they didn’t have enough information so they asked me to do a post-grad here and that’s why I’m here. Everything has been good here so far, my second game was a good performance, I set my record for three-point shots made [smiles]. Yeah I feel really good here. I was going to go early to college, but didn’t make it because of COVID-19. I think it was a really good choice to come here and play as a post-grad.

PI: So you were playing soccer and switched to basketball after watching an NBA game on TV?

RM: It’s actually a fun story. I was sick, so I stayed home and they had these NBA replays on the sports channel, so I watched. It was the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James against the San Antonio Spurs with Tony Parker. I watched that game and I was like, “yeah, basketball seems fun,” and my dad wasn’t happy at all with me stopping playing soccer because I was good. I was a striker and leading scorer. So, yeah, I stopped [playing soccer] and started playing basketball from one day to the other and it worked. I had really nice people and good coaches that made me go further every time and that’s how I started. Just one NBA game on TV and now I’m here.

PI: How did you get your start with a club once you decided you wanted to play basketball?

RM: I’ve always been tall, so I was like 6’0” or 6’1” at 13 years old. So I arrived at a practice and asked if they were doing tryouts and they said, “yeah, we’ll see how you play, but obviously you’ve never played before so maybe we’ll put you on the second team.” But they immediately put me on the first team because I was athletic and I ran fast. After a few games, I was in the starting five, I played power forward and center for the first two years and when I moved to France I played the shooting guard and small forward. Now I play the two-through-four, I can play most every position. It helped me to extend my game playing all of those positions.

PI: Did your parents or other family members also play basketball?

RM: Yeah, I’m from Argentina [as well], I have both passports, Switzerland and Argentina. My dad is a big soccer fan so he made me play soccer since I was three years old. He wanted me to be a professional soccer player, but I’m the only athlete in the family. I have a cousin who was a professional boxer, but that’s pretty much it. But yeah, I’m pretty much the only athlete in the family and his only hope of a soccer player was only me and on the day I said “no,” he was so angry he didn’t talk to me for like a week [laughs].

PI: What are your current measurements?

RM: I’m between 6’7'' and 6’8” and I weigh around 215 pounds. My goal is to get to 225 pounds and still be really athletic. My wingspan is around 6’9” or 6’10”.

PI: Where do you get your size from?

RM: Really, I don’t know — my dad’s 6’1” and my mom is 5’9”, but my mom has cousins that are like 6’5” or 6’6”. So maybe it comes from that side, but I don’t really know [laughs]. My brother is like 6’4”, so we’re both pretty tall.

PI: Describe your game — what are some of your greatest strengths?

RM: I can do everything, that’s why I play small forward. I mostly shoot threes — catch-and-shoot threes are my main thing, but I also drive to the basket in a few dribbles. Just one or two dribbles, not a lot, just dribbles to get to the basket and score. I can pass, set screens, play in pick-and-roll, etc. I’m pretty versatile, so I do it all on the court. I push the ball, run fast breaks, etc. But my main thing is shooting and driving.

PI: How would you describe yourself as a defender?

RM: Yeah, I can play defense from two-through-five. I can defend the whole court with guards, defend the low post on centers, I can “no middle,” that’s what I was taught in France. I have defensive highlights from the game and getting beat on defense is not really what I do. I always stay in front of my man and that’s my job, actually. France taught me how to learn to like playing defense. So now I like to play hard defense. I always talk — communication is key — so I’m trying to be a leader on defense and offense. It works during the games, so I’m just going to keep doing it.

PI: Elaborate a bit more — how did your time in France make you a stronger defender?