Nevada’s Martin twins pose double trouble for opponents
Can’t tell which one is which? Peep their playing styles
From the braids that are indistinguishable right down to the fresh parts to the beards that appear precise in razor lineup and length, it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between Nevada twins Caleb and Cody Martin.
It’s in the playing styles of the 6-foot-7 junior guards where you can spot the difference.
Caleb is the cutthroat scorer who led the Wolfpack with 19.1 points per game, helping him gain recognition as both the Mountain West Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.
Cody is the do-whatever-is-needed role player who averaged 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists, earning the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year award and a place on the Mountain West second team. He was the team’s starting power forward before being moved to the point guard position with seven games left in the regular season after Lindsey Drew ruptured his Achilles tendon in February.
“Caleb is a phenomenal scorer,” said Texas coach Shaka Smart, whose team lost to Nevada in a first-round game on Friday. “Cody … can rebound, defend, play point guard, initiate offense, shoot, drive and post up. I could count on one hand the number of guys we’ve played all year … that are more dangerous than those guys.”
This is the second NCAA tournament experience for the Martin twins, who were freshmen on the North Carolina State team that beat LSU and Villanova in the first two rounds of the 2015 tournament before losing to Louisville in the regional semifinal (they were teammates with forward Kyle Washington of Cincinnati, Nevada’s opponent in Sunday’s round of 32). Caleb played sparingly in those three games, while Cody never left the bench.
“My freshman year, we didn’t get to play,” Cody said. “It’s a lot different when you’re on the court. I finally get to experience it and get to have a big impact on the game.”
Despite having a competitive streak that has a big impact on opponents, the Martin twins have always been in direct competition with each other. The biracial twins (born to a white mother and black father) would always fight as kids, and that beat-my-brother mentality runs so deep that the two rarely defend each other in pickup games because it gets too heated and physical.
“It always ends up in a fistfight,” Cody said.
Caleb added: “We can never finish the game because me and Cody will be fighting and it will be football. It won’t be basketball anymore.”
Back in 2009, a tape of VMI featuring the Holmes twins showed Travis Holmes whispering in the ear of his brother, who was just fouled, and then stepping to the line to shoot two free throws. Chavis had just missed three of four free throws in the previous minute. “Sometimes,” said Chavis, who would never admit to the con, “it’s hard to distinguish who is who.”
Have the Martin brothers ever considered such a ruse to fool officials?
“Say I’m playing well and he’s not, and I got like four fouls and he’s got like two. I’m sure we’ve been tempted a couple of times to switch jerseys,” Caleb said, laughing. “But I don’t want him playing my minutes, and he don’t want me playing his minutes.”
Added Cody: “I feel like sometimes they do a pretty good job at that, messing up themselves.”
The Martin twins have become the second-most popular basketball-playing twins in the history of Nevada college basketball (Dylan and Dakota Gonzalez, who played at UNLV, hold the top spot with over 2 million combined Instagram followers) because of the way the school recruited them.
When the two announced they were transferring, it was Caleb who got the most attention because of his better offensive stats.
“We decided to go a different route and really go after Cody,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “We took a unique and kind of outside-the-box approach, and it ended up helping us. I think his mom appreciated that.”
So the twins went from the Wolfpack of North Carolina State to the Wolf Pack of Nevada. One of the toughest decisions to go to Nevada was being away from their mother, Jenny Bennett, who worked multiple jobs while raising the twins and their older brother as a single parent in a bug-infested single-wide trailer in Cooleemee, North Carolina.
“The way we grew up, nothing was ever given, so I think that plays a role in how we … play on the court,” Caleb said.
Added Cody: “I think the biggest thing for us is seeing her go through that and sacrificing what she had to sacrifice for us to allow us to do what we want to do. Every time we step on the court, every time we practice, it’s bigger than just us.”
That fight has helped Nevada go from being a team just happy to be in the tournament last year after an 11-year absence to thinking it can do some damage in the tournament this year as a No. 7 seed.
“I don’t see guys tweeting stuff out like we did last year, and I don’t see the cameras going all over the place,” Musselman said. “We have a businesslike approach.”
And part of that mindset is the addition of Caleb and Cody, who sat out as transfers last year.
“Every program has to take steps in the right direction of bettering each season,” Caleb said. “We came to Nashville to win a couple of games.”