Alex Martin didn’t take any crap. Especially not from his brother. He was not older, not bigger, not faster, not stronger than his big bro, Cameron. But he had cajones of steel.
When Cameron was in the eighth grade, some divine miracle allowed him to grow eight inches in a matter of months. Heaven for his basketball career, hell for his knees. When he’d walk to his downstairs bedroom, Cameron would ache, his legs being held together by eggshells.
Alex, always a tactician, saw a new attack point. So when brotherly arguments would flare up, Alex focused on the knees. Those frail, brittle knees.
“Whether it be throwing a shoe at him,” said Martin’s mom, Mandi. “Whether it be kicking him and running off to another room because Cameron was bigger. He used to try and take him out. He was never scared of him.”
That may be an understatement. Back when Cameron was about 10 years old, his room got a major upgrade. New carpeting. A new paint job — burnt orange in honor of his beloved Texas Longhorns. The room was sweet, so cool that Cameron would invite all his friends to come hang out inside. And, of course, they wouldn’t let little Alex – then 3 or 4 years old — join the party.
That disrespect did not fly with Alex — and Alex, as you will continue to learn, lives his life on grand scales. If someone were to tell Alex they were headed to the moon, he’d try and get to Mars.
“Everything was a competition,” Mandi said.
So rather than simply tattle to his parents or ignore the situation, Alex went out to the Martin’s backyard. He grabbed the hose, twisted the nozzle counterclockwise, dragged it through the house and sprayed Cameron and his buddies in the bedroom.
The Martins kept fans on for weeks, trying to dry the flooded carpeting.
For years, life for Jeff and Mandi Martin was trying to stop wars between their sons. And the most effective way to stop wars is to stop interaction.
“I’m not exaggerating,” Alex said, “we were not allowed to be in the same room together.”
When the boys wanted to go to the gym, Jeff and Mandi used to schedule it out. One of them would take one boy, and when they were on their way home the other parent would take the other son. If Alex and Cameron were ever at the gym together, Jeff would rebound for one boy — and on the opposite side of the gym, Mandi would rebound for the other.
The Martins tell all these stories because the boys that could never get along, that fought over video games, that couldn’t go to the gym at the same time, that weren’t allowed in the same room together are now best friends.
“It’s 110% exactly the other way,” Jeff said. “If someone looks at either one of those boys cross-eyed, they're gonna have to deal with both of them.”
When Cameron went away to college at Jacksonville State, he and Alex started talking more and more. When Cameron transferred to Missouri Southern State as a sophomore, the school was just a few miles from the Martin’s home, which meant Alex was over at Cameron’s apartment nonstop. He was over there so much that Cameron actually brought up the idea to his parents: Why doesn’t Alex just come live with me?
“They became inseparable,” Mandi Martin said.
When COVID hit and Cameron was still playing at Missouri Southern State, he and Alex figured out that quarantining meant they just had to stay in one place. So they grabbed their mattresses and a cooler from home and threw them in the men’s locker room. Some grinders say they live in the gym. Alex and Cameron actually lived in the gym.
“We would take food down to them, leave it outside and knock on the weight room door,” Jeff Martin said. “They never left the gym, because they knew if they did they’d get in trouble.”
Which leads us to this summer. After a winding collegiate journey filled with transfers, injuries and a pandemic, Cameron decided to move on from the University of Kansas and transfer for the fourth time.
Because of a series of unfortunate events, Cameron was set to play his final year of college basketball the same year that Alex — who was committed to Fort Scott Community College — was set to play his first. The boys, separated by six years, never saw a path to play together.
When Cam entered the transfer portal, he made it known that he and Alex were a package deal.
“I had my mind made up that I wanted to play my last year with him,” Cam Martin said of Alex. “I wasn’t going to go anywhere unless he went with me.”
A few months ago, Boise State invited the Martins on a visit to the Treasure Valley. When they landed, the entire coaching staff greeted the family at the airport.
“We know the main focus was Cameron, but they included Alex in everything,” Mandi said. “(They made) Alex his own individual person.”
And, so, days later, both Alex and Cameron committed to Boise State — the 19-year-old freshman and the 25-year-old super-super-super senior. The guys who couldn’t be in the same room together will now share a locker room.
“It’s one of the coolest things that’s happened,” Jeff Martin said. “I’ve been saying the whole time, we’re gonna have a movie by the time Cam’s journey is over. Now that Alex’s is getting started the way it is — man, this is doing nothing but adding to the book, movie, whatever.”
Alex Martin knows what most are thinking. That he’s a token throw-in with his brother, that most people have little expectations for a walk-on, that it would be surprising if he sees the court much in the next few years.
But he also knows most people don’t know the full story.
That he’s 6-foot-6 with a fantastic shot. That when he got to BSU’s campus, coach Leon Rice told him, “I thought this was more of a piggyback thing, but that isn’t the case at all.” And, most importantly, that he hasn’t played much basketball the past four years. No year-round circuits. No AAU Tournaments. Just his high school season.
And why didn’t he play much basketball the past few years?
“I’m an entrepreneur,” he said matter-of-factly. “Throughout high school, I’ve owned four different businesses. I owned a lawn service, then I owned a detail shop and I detailed for four major car lots.
“Right now, I actually own an inflatable bounce-house business and I own two different snow-cone stands. So I never really focused on basketball.”
If this sounds crazy coming out of the mouth of a 19-year old, just know he’s underselling it.
It started seven years ago, when Alex was 12 and the Martins lived in Norman, Oklahoma. He conjured up a money-making idea one day: Lawn Mowing. So he grabbed some paper, created handmade flyers and stuck them on every door in the neighborhood.
Within an hour, two folks had already called Alex, ready to pay him $25 to mow their yard.
There was just one problem: The Martins were renting and, thus, “(We) didn’t own a lawnmower,” Mandi said.
So they went and bought Alex a lawnmower and he spent the entire summer pushing that thing around, touching practically every blade of grass in their Norman community. He saved up all his money, paid back his parents and had enough to buy an Xbox One.
Since then, his scale has only grown.
A couple years later, Alex woke up his dad one Saturday morning.
“Hey dad, there’s a guy here to pick up your truck,” Alex said.
“Long story short,” Jeff said, “Alex sold my truck for $6,500 to this guy because he had a wild head and put it on (Facebook) Marketplace. Literally, the dude was in my front yard. First time I knew my truck was for sale.”
Alex made a killing flipping cars, buying one he thought was underpriced and putting it right back on the market. Flipping cars turned into car detailing — and Alex ran that business with such professionalism that Jeff and Mandi couldn’t stop taking compliments.
The money Alex saved from that led him to buy a snow cone machine for sale on Facebook? Why? Because it gets hot in the midwest and no one else nearby had thought of snow cones.
“I tried it and it just took off,” Alex said. “I was just making incredible money.”
And that led to him buying some guy’s entire inflatables business — 14 inflatables, an enclosed trailer, the whole shebang.
“Sure enough, it took off like crazy,” Alex said. “I couldn’t keep up, started hiring a couple people. Now I’ve got 25 inflatables, two enclosed trailers, all kinds of stuff.”
Alex takes a quick pause.
“Have to leave it all behind,” he said.
There is some curiosity about why Alex would even want to play basketball. He’s been successful at everything he’s done. He’s making more money than just about anyone his age. With more capital, there’s no doubt he could be uber-profitable in whatever business he decided to attack. So why even go to Boise State?
“Honestly, I was making plenty of money and everything but, about my sophomore year, I just actually truly started to love basketball,” Alex said. “Before then, I never really cared. I mean, I played just to play. But I didn’t take it seriously.
“But I take it seriously now and if I get myself around the right people, I can have a big future in basketball. Honestly, I think I can play overseas.”
The right people seem to be at Boise State. Leon Rice. A veteran lineup. And, of course, his big brother.