April 6, 2024 

Fifth-year senior Kate Martin cements her legacy at Iowa

Caitlin Clark: 'She embodies Iowa women’s basketball in every single thing she does'

CLEVELAND — Few players around the country understand this better than they do at Iowa: When you play with a superstar like Caitlin Clark, you learn to survive and even thrive without the sunlight.

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The Hawkeyes know they are not here, on the precipice of a national championship for the second year in a row, without those who play in the shadows.

Case in point: Fifth-year senior Kate Martin stuffed a tissue up her nose to stop the bleeding late in the third quarter in Friday’s national semifinal, the result of a blow to the face from UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards. It was another blow in what has become an annual rite of the basketball season for Martin, who broke her nose twice during the 2020-21 season and again in 2022.

After that, Martin did her best work, scoring six critical points in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter as the Hawkeyes held off UConn and punched their ticket to the title game against South Carolina on Sunday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. She finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.

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Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder called Martin “the heart and soul of our team” after Friday’s game.

“What a warrior,” Bluder told reporters. “That kid, she was not going to be denied in that fourth quarter. Some of those takes she had to the basket, turnarounds, strong jumpers … I don’t know what happened to her nose. But we obviously saw a lot of blood.

“That poor kid has broken her nose, I think, every single year she’s been at Iowa. But she’s a warrior. She’s a leader.”

Martin, a 6′ guard from Edwardsville, Illinois, has started 138 straight games for the Hawkeyes alongside Clark. That’s the longest streak by any Division I duo in the last 25 years. The consistency of that, in the age of the transfer portal, is remarkable.

Gritty and steady, Martin has earned the nickname “The Glue.” The kid who had an Iowa women’s basketball poster taped to the ceiling in her bedroom, who attended Iowa basketball camps as a teenager, is the player that Clark gushes about. Martin is her best friend and her stabilizer through all the craziness.

“I don’t think I’d have the type of career [I have] if I don’t have a teammate like Kate,” Clark told reporters on Saturday. “She’s been one that has had my back. She holds me accountable. I hold her accountable. But I think at the same time, me and Kate are wired so similarly that we get each other on a different level.

“She’s pushed me and I’ve pushed her. I know when we walk off that court tomorrow, win or lose, we’ll have a lot to hold our head up about.”

Iowa players hug each other after a win in the Final Four. Among the players hugging are Iowa's Kate Martin and Caitlin Clark, whose tongue sticks out as she smiles.
Iowa guards Kate Martin (center right) and Caitlin Clark (center left) embrace after defeating UConn in the Final Four at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 5, 2024. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

At one point, Clark said the reason she wouldn’t consider coming back for a fifth season in 2024-25 was because Martin wouldn’t be by her side.

“She is the best teammate I’ve ever had,” Clark said. “If we don’t have Kate Martin, we’re not in this position. I don’t know where our season ends, but we’re not right here. That’s how much she brings to our team. And every single person on our team would say that.”

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The daughter of a football coach, Martin said her father Matthew has been an influence throughout her life and in her basketball career.

“He was a little hard on me growing up, but in the best way possible,” Martin told reporters on Saturday. “He’s also my No. 1 support and I think it’s really helped me to have that coach’s mentality and to see things through the lens of a coach sometimes. And it’s helped me in so many ways.”

Bluder sees Martin as a future coach, too.

“Kate Martin’s legacy will go down as one of the greatest leaders ever,” Bluder told reporters on Saturday. “She’s going to be an unbelievable coach. She is a tremendous leader of young women. She is able to hold people accountable when it is not easy to hold your teammates accountable when you’re 20 years old. And she doesn’t back down to that. She is not scared of doing that. She has the respect of everybody in the room.”

Related reading: For Iowa’s Hannah Stuelke, ‘confidence is everything’ in Final Four win

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Despite tearing her ACL and missing her first season of college basketball, she is the only Iowa women’s basketball player to record more than 900 points, 500 rebounds, 400 assists, 120 steals and 60 blocks in her career.

“[People] aren’t going to remember the stats, but I hope they remember that I brought joy to people’s lives and I hope I‘ve been a good role model for a lot of young girls and young boys,” Martin said. “I was in their position when I was little idolizing Iowa women’s basketball. So I hope I was a good influence in that way.”

Considering the large crowds Iowa has played in front of during Clark’s time in Iowa City, the big moments are now commonplace. Martin has carved out her distinct place in the story of this era. Her legacy is cemented.

“She embodies Iowa women’s basketball in every single thing she does,” Clark said. “I know it’s going to be special for her to take the court one more time in an Iowa jersey.”

Written by Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith has covered women's basketball nationally for nearly three decades. Smith has worked for ESPN.com, The Athletic, the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as Pac-12.com and WNBA.com. She was named to the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame in 2015, is the 2017 recipient of the Jake Wade Media Award from the Collegiate Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA) and was named the Mel Greenberg Media Award winner by the WBCA in 2019.

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