Remy Martin Gets Finish Kansas Wanted After Rocky Season

NEW ORLEANS — After the final buzzer, as he made his way across the court, the Kansas transfer guard Remy Martin stared triumphantly at the Jayhawks fans who were pressing against the Superdome’s railings to get as close as they could to him.

“Rem-y! Rem-y!” they chanted.

They had screamed his name when he was introduced before Monday night’s national championship game. And again after his stepback 3-point jumper broke a late tie with North Carolina to help seal a 72-69 win.

This was the Martin they had expected when he transferred from Arizona State before the start of the season. The Martin that Coach Bill Self and his teammates had envisioned and hoped to see.

He entered the season as the Big 12’s preseason Player of the Year after dominating the Pac-12 Conference with the Sun Devils, but he was derailed by injury for part of January and most of February. For months, his status was uncertain as he had gone from a player averaging 19.1 points in his junior and senior seasons with the Sun Devils for First-Team All-Pac 12 honors, to a player barely making any appearances.

After a standout 2020-21 season at Arizona State, Martin tested the N.B.A. waters before announcing his decision to transfer to Kansas, bolstering an already loaded Jayhawks team as a super-senior.

The hype surrounding his arrival was felt in his Jayhawks debut, when he dropped 15 points in an exhibition against Emporia State.

Fans chanted his name even then, as their team’s new point guard, with his magnetic personality and explosiveness, added another layer of talent to Kansas’ elite program.

In a December game against Nevada, though, Martin was driving toward the basket when his right knee collided with a Nevada defender who had shifted into the lane as he was running forward. Martin tumbled to the floor, grabbing at the knee.

Martin, who was later reported to have suffered a bone bruise, was largely ineffective in the games that followed as he moved to a reserve role. He missed nearly a month at the beginning of the year.

The veteran Jayhawks were still successful without him, finishing the regular season with a 25-6 record and sharing the Big 12 regular-season title with Baylor. They had the senior guard Ochai Agbaji, senior forward David McCormack and junior guard Christian Braun to power them forward.

But their chances of seeing everything Martin could add to the team late in the season didn’t happen until the N.C.A.A. tournament.

“I think Remy, in his core, always knew what he was capable to do to help us, but we hadn’t really seen it yet because his health hadn’t allowed it,” Self said. “I think our guys have more of a swagger now knowing what Remy can do to make us better.”

Since his healthy return, Martin showed that he was one of the pieces that made this Kansas team unstoppable, though teams tried, and nearly succeeded, at halting the Jayhawks’ championship run.

Martin finished in double figures in each of Kansas’ first three games of the tournament, scoring 20 points in the round of 32 and 23 points in the round of 16 to help the Jayhawks eke out narrow wins over Creighton and Providence.

Martin wasn’t much of a factor in the national semifinal against Villanova, scoring just 3 points, but the Jayhawks hardly needed him after career nights from Agbaji and McCormack.

Against North Carolina, Martin was the engine that powered Kansas’ historic second-half comeback, in which the Jayhawks erased a 16-point deficit to win their fourth national title in program history.

In his role coming off the bench, Martin created his own shots when his teammates couldn’t, knocking down the big ones just when the Jayhawks needed them.

“In the second half, I just came in there, tried to make something happen and shot the shots with confidence,” Martin said. He added: “I wanted to keep going and extend that lead. And I’m happy that we did that

Martin’s 3-pointer late in the game was his fourth of the night, more than any other player.

And although his path to the men’s national title game was perhaps more difficult than the route most of his teammates took, it ended just the same: with him standing center stage at the Superdome, blue and red confetti sticking to his championship gear, hoisting a national championship trophy.

“This year has been a tough year individually for me,” Martin said, “just injuries and just hard to find a groove sometimes. But it felt great.”

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