Ian Martinez, the first Costa Rican to play men’s basketball at a major U.S. university, began his 2021-22 campaign on Tuesday for the Maryland Terrapins.
The Tico scored eight points in 15 minutes and dished out three assists in the Terps’ 83-69 season-opening victory over Quinnipiac. His performance included a steal and lob to Donta Scott for an alley-oop slam.
Martinez has basketball in his blood. His father, Henry, was an assistant coach at Utah and spent 15 years with the Costa Rican national team. Henry and his wife, Helen, founded the ProBasket Academy in Costa Rica in 2002, and Ian hopes to develop basketball in Costa Rica after his playing career ends.
Before that, though, Ian Martinez has a shot to become the first athlete from Costa Rica to play in the NBA.
Profiled in a 2020 story by the Los Angeles Times, the point guard from Heredia could make history.
NBADraft.net considers Martinez the 18th-best NBA prospect for next year. An early mock draft from that publication has the sophomore going to Houston as a late first-round pick.
“He’s a special player,” Pat Barrett, founder of the Southern California All-Stars AAU program for which Martinez played, told the Los Angeles Times. “To me, he’s the most athletic kid that I’ve ever had.”
Martinez moved to Southern California before high school, earning a visa due to his basketball talents.
As a freshman in college with Utah, the Costa Rica native appeared in 25 games, and he averaged 9.7 points over the team’s final six games. His improvement led to a career-high night with 18 points against USC in the PAC-12 Tournament.
A coaching change provoked Martinez’s transfer to Maryland in April 2021. A meniscus tear sidelined him for much of the summer, but as he showed Tuesday, he has recovered in time for the nascent hoops season.