Growing up in Franklin, Tennessee, Will Martin had two loves.
As a kid living through the peak of the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls, he obsessed over ‘His Airness’ and the game of basketball.
His second love: Kentucky hoops.
From the time he arrived in Lexington without a job to becoming head manager for the team’s 2012 national championship team, his biggest passions grew even more.
“It taught me what true patience is. I go back to that feeling when I was an 18-year-old kid a lot in my current state,” Martin said.
While his duties ranged from laundry to picking up NBA coaches at the airport, to eventually running drills with players, it became more than a job.
In August 2010, Anthony Davis became the No. 1-rated high school prospect in the country and chose to continue his career at Kentucky. He has since been named to the All-NBA first team three times and recently was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Much of that work ethic began during his high school days at Kentucky and carried into college. When ‘The Brow’ needed someone to work with, Martin became his go-to guy.
“Anthony was someone who wanted to be in the gym all the time and was hungry to be the No. 1 overall draft pick, and I was hungry to be a coach,” Martin said. We had a relationship that was reciprocal because we always wanted to be on the court.
“That created a respect for each other and turned into a friendship.”
The two celebrated on the floor of the Superdome together in New Orleans. On his way to the NBA Draft, Martin and Davis went everywhere together, be it in the gym or to appearances.
They visited the ESPN studios, did interviews with CNN and were at the Prudential Center on draft night in Newark, New Jersey.
“When he graduated from Kentucky, he asked me if I’d go and work with him,” said Martin, explaining that he originally turned down the idea.
“The more and more we talked and I saw how it could expand my career by training him and getting that experience in the NBA, it was a no-brainer for me.”
Martin became Davis’ private trainer and prepared to work with his as an assistant and business manager wherever the Lottery balls took Davis. Not long after the national title, the pair learned that instead of the expected destination of Charlotte, the No. 1 pick belonged to a site they were familiar with: New Orleans.
“It was surreal that less than a month ago we just won a national championship there, now we’re going to live there and Anthony’s gonna be the franchise guy,” Martin said. “To go back down there and be apart of that was amazing.”
Davis was ultimately selected by the Hornets and the duo moved to Tchoupitoulas Street just off the Mississippi River. From there, the pair went to the Olympics in London and Martin was there for him every step of the way until accepting a graduate position the following year at Tulsa to return to coaching.
“We both knew eventually I was gonna leave to pursue coaching, and he was paramount in helping me get on with another staff,” Martin said. “Working with him also changed my life with how I deal with players, work with players and speak to guys.”
With Davis on the cusp of becoming an NBA Finals contender for the first time alongside LeBron James, he hasn’t lost touch with his roots. Martin and A.D. still talk frequently, and the second-year Missouri Western assistant is confident the world will see what he has all along.
“We talk all the time. I’m super excited for the opportunity he has with the Lakers. I think Anthony has the opportunity to really mark himself as one of the greatest players to ever play this game,” Martin said.
“I think he’s gonna get to L.A. and the world’s gonna see he’s not just a really good player. He’s gonna put his mark on this game for the end of time.”