“The harder you prey, the harder you work, and the more you’ll succeed.”
If you ask Devin Martin what the phrase “prey harder” means to him, that’s what he will tell you.
The guard played the last two years for the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks, who regularly use #PreyHarder on social media to describe the men’s basketball program.
Last week, Martin signed a contract with his agency, taking the next step towards his ultimate dream of making it to the NBA. But, in the early years, some wondered if his dream would ever be realized.
Martin has had to overcome various challenges that would have knocked most people down and kept them away from realizing their dreams. Instead of letting the obstacles keep him down, Martin overcame them all, seemingly coming out stronger and more mature each time.
It must have been fate that led Martin to the Hawks before the 2014-15 season, as he has been living the “Prey Harder” life since his high school days.
High school years can be tough for anyone. From friendships and relationships, to classes and balancing school with a part-time job, the high school years can pose several challenges that make things difficult enough.
Figuring out who you are as a person, what your talent or passion is, and setting yourself up for the next stage of your life are the hardest of them all.
For Martin, all of those challenges would seem so easy in comparison to the ordeal he had to go through. The native of Baltimore, MD started high school at the KIMA School in Washington, DC., but finished at the Florida Christian Institute in Cape Coral, FL.
Some would think he simply moved to Florida for a better opportunity, but he didn’t have much choice.
“The biggest obstacle I’ve faced is when my high school in D.C. shut down,” said Martin. “My dad was actually living in a local dorm that had to be chaperoned by a parent at the time in order for us to go there, but unfortunately the school couldn’t stay open.”
“My dad was homeless without having anywhere to live or sleep at night, and was a cab driver trying to make an honest living to better me and him.”
As tough as it was for Martin to see his father go through the times like that, he didn’t let it slow him down.
After the KIMA School closed down, Martin missed the 2010-2011 school year. He was looking for a new school to attend, and found his new home down in Cape Coral, FL at the Florida Christian Institute.
“That wasn’t the greatest thing for me, but I did have a great season, got some good looks,” said Martin, reflecting back on his time at prep school. “Got my high school diploma, so that worked out.”
Martin displayed the Prey Harder mentality when things got tough, and obstacle #1 had been overcome. He never gave up, made the most of a less-than-ideal situation, and was ready for the next chapter of his life.
When it looked like his back was against the wall, the talented guard pushed back and overcame the challenges. After high school was complete, Martin committed to play basketball for the Monroe College Mustangs in New York.
As a freshman, Martin averaged 6.0 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 42.3% from the field in just over 10 minutes of floor time per contest. Despite only making two starts on the year, Martin made a strong case for an increased level of playing time the following season.
Then, the second major obstacle in Martin’s career presented itself.
“I found out that I had been playing with a torn ACL and lateral meniscus,” said Martin. “I was sidelined that whole summer and spent my whole summer rehabbing and trying to get in shape to make it back for the next season.”
After Martin had overcome the high school obstacle, coming out stronger in the process, he was back up against the same wall with another issue.
Once more, he didn’t let the obstacle overcome him. Rather, he overcame it.
His constant efforts in the summer, leading up to his sophomore campaign, paid off. When the dust settled, Martin was back on the hardwood and had taken down another obstacle.
The Prey Harder mantra was present once more.
After his injury, Martin made 23 starts for the Mustangs in 2013-14. He averaged 9.2 points per contest, and shot an even 43.5% from the floor.
Maritn never let the injury get him down, and he stuck to the process and it made him stronger in the end.
“I stuck to it, and it moulded me to become a great player and made me mentally stronger than I’ve ever been,” said Martin.
Chalk up another personal win for Martin.
From Baltimore to Washington, then from Florida to New York, Martin had made his rounds before committing to Maryland-Eastern Shore before the 2014-15 campaign. With Princess Anne, MD just two and a half hours from his hometown of Baltimore, he didn’t see himself returning so close to home.
“Growing up and being in Baltimore my whole life, you spend so much time trying to get out of such a rough place,” said Martin, when asked whether or not being close to home affected his decision to commit to the Hawks.
“You just want to change sceneries and be somewhere where you can really focus.”
While Martin had significant interest from other programs, such as the Rhode Island Rams, the Cleveland State Vikings, the Grand Canyon Antelopes, among several others, none of them were the right fit for him. They weren’t what he wanted, or needed.
Then, a call came from Maryland-Eastern Shore.
“When I got the call from UMES, I was thinking there’s no way I would end up there, especially based off their previous history,” said Martin.
It’s hard not to blame Martin for thinking that way. The Hawks were coming off a 2013-14 year in which they went 6-24 overall, and 4-12 in MEAC play. Over the three previous years combined, the Hawks were a dismal 15-73 overall, and 10-38 against conference opponents.
Heading into the 2014-15 season, the Hawks had a new head coach, in Bobby Collins, and the program was in a bit of a transition stage. But, Martin liked what he heard from Coach Collins, and committed to the Hawks in the end.
“When I found out they had a new coaching staff, it kinda tweaked my interest a little bit,” said Martin. “I came on my visit and the coaching staff was great.”
“I was completely sold on what Bobby Collins and his staff had to offer as coaches, and I trusted and believed in them and I kinda made my decision based of that and my career has been great ever since.”
Great would be an understatement.
Martin was a big factor in the Hawks’ resurgence in 2014-15, helping lead the team to an 18-15 record overall, a third place finish in the MEAC standings, and a berth in the 2015 CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
While they would ultimately fall to the High Point Panthers in the opening game of the CIT, the season was seen as a success for the program as a whole.
The Hawks were back on the map, and Martin was a big reason for that.
With the team’s success in 2014-15, there were heightened expectations for the program heading into the 2015-16 season. The increased levels of optimism made the early-season struggles harder for everyone to take.
What goes up, must come down, and the Hawks came back to Earth. They lost 10 of their first 11 games, and were never able to dig themselves out of the hole. The Hawks finished the year at 10-22, losing in the opening round of the MEAC Tournament to the Morgan State Bears, bringing an end to their season.
“The early season struggles were tough, especially with eight new players,” said Martin, looking back at the 2015-16 season. “We kind of had to start from scratch and learn how to play with each other again.”
Add in the tough schedule for the Hawks, which was likely a result of their strong play a season prior, and it’s no surprise the Hawks took a step backwards. A six-game road trip in the early portion of the season saw the Hawks take on the likes of the Michigan State Spartans, the Maryland Terrapins, the Georgetown Hoyas, and the Old Dominion Monarchs.
Any team, even power conference opponents, would have struggled with that stretch of games.
Over his two years with the Hawks, Martin was a go-to option on the offensive end of the floor, and one of the team leaders.
Martin’s final stat lines for each season are as follows:
2014-15: 14.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.4 apg; 42.2% FG
2015-16: 16.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.3 spg; 42.4% FG
Based on the way things played out, especially in the 2014-15 season, committing to Maryland-Eastern Shore was a great decision for Martin. He was put in a leadership role from the start, given every opportunity to shine, and he took full advantage of each opportunity presented to him.
Looking back, there’s one thing from Coach Collins that Martin will always take with him, as his basketball career continues to unfold.
“Carry your work ethic and faith you have in basketball into the real world,” said Martin. “Life gets much harder after school, and if you can do that, then you can provide for yourself and your family as well.”
While the ‘Prey Harder’ mantra didn’t come into focus until his time with the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks, Devin Martin has been living those two words since his days in high school. Time and time again, he has persevered when his back was against the wall, emerging from the rubble stronger and more mature each and every time.
The end goal has always been to play professional basketball, and Martin has the most important thing that can propel a player to reach the top level.
He believes in his own abilities, and knows he has what it takes to make it to the big leagues. Last week, he announced that he was signing with his agency, taking the next step on his journey to become a professional basketball player.
Martin knows that playing basketball won’t always be there, and that it will eventually come to an end. He has a plan for when his playing days are over, which will still keep him somewhat involved in the game.
“I plan on being a skills trainer,” concluded Martin. “I love working with kids, so I want to open up my own youth development center one day.”
Most young players don’t focus on life beyond basketball this early in their career, which is a testament to the maturity level of Martin when compared to others in the same position as him. Having been through the trials and tribulations that he has, Martin has emerged more mature, and has a different outlook on life than others.
From Washington to Florida, then New York to Princess Anne, Martin has seen it all. He’s seen the highs and lows at every level, and has overcome each obstacle.
Having been through his high school closing and missing a year of school, then having knee surgery as a freshman in college, Martin has endured things that would have forced most people to give up on their basketball dreams.
With his perseverance, he has been able to pull through and has been ultimately rewarded for his battles. Martin bounced back from surgery after his freshman year at Monroe College to earn a scholarship from Maryland-Eastern Shore. He was a key piece in the turnaround for the Hawks, resulting in a post-season berth for the program, and a contract with a sports agency.
Things are coming full circle for Martin, as he gets ready to embark on the next chapter of his basketball career.
Two simple words have remained constant for Martin each and every step of the way, and will continue to resonate with him for years to come.