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Purdue's Chase Martin — son of Mizzou coach — carving own path in familiar territory

Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune
Purdue's Chase Martin dribbles the ball during a game against Oakland on Dec. 1 at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.

Chase Martin first stepped foot inside the halls of Purdue's Mackey Arena long ago — not too long after he took his first steps.

The college freshman now walks those West Lafayette, Indiana, paths as a walk-on for the Purdue men's basketball team.

Being there is a homecoming of sorts for Martin. Before he moved around the country growing up and landed in Columbia, where he was valedictorian of his high school class at Tolton, Martin became familiar with several of the Boilermakers' current coaches.

Martin is the youngest of three children born to Missouri head men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin and his wife of 25-plus years, Roberta. Cuonzo is known nowadays for roaming the Tigers' sideline, but his journey in the sport is deeply connected to Purdue, where he was a standout college player and later an assistant coach.

Chase Martin, just like he did at Tolton, wears No. 22 in the old gold and black, the same jersey number bestowed on his dad for four years under coaching legend Gene Keady. 

"That's always why I've worn No. 22. It's always been special to me because my dad wore it," Martin said. "So I'm grateful that I'm able to wear it here."

Tolton's Chase Martin, middle, walks with his parents, Missouri head men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, left, and Roberta Martin, during senior day ceremonies before the Trailblazers' game against Cardinal Ritter on Feb. 22, 2020, at Tolton High School.

During the early stages of COVID-19 quarantine, Martin was considering Division I scholarship opportunities with Ivy League schools such as Dartmouth and Brown. 

As he was narrowing in on a decision, a familiar name rang his phone: Matt Painter.

Painter played alongside Cuonzo Martin for the Boilermakers and was a Purdue assistant for Keady's final two seasons at the helm, the same as Martin.

As Painter was named Keady's successor upon the longtime coach's retirement in 2005, he kept Martin on staff. Both have been Division I head coaches since 2008. 

Purdue is where Cuonzo and Roberta met. Chase always knew his family history was significantly linked to West Lafayette. It didn't have to mean it was his destiny to end up a Boilermaker, however, even with his older brother, Josh, also attending the school. 

There's a clear nod to his parents in considering schools that would be great fits academically as well as athletically. Chase intends to major in engineering at Purdue.

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"It was more of a coincidence. I didn't really have them on my radar," Chase said. "But when coach Painter reached out, and my dad told me about the opportunity, I thought about it. And my dad went here. It's a good school, they have a good program.

"So it all really just lined up."

The Boilermakers are ranked No. 24 in the country and are trying to solidify their NCAA Tournament resume in a deep Big Ten Conference.

Martin has played in only one game thus far for Purdue, seeing the floor for three minutes against mid-major Oakland on Dec. 1. He was 0-for-1 from the field, a missed 3-point attempt.

Limited playing time is expected for a first-year walk-on with a talented roster of teammates. But just as his dad preaches inside Mizzou Arena, there are plenty of ways Chase can contribute.

He's a valued member of the scout team, an exercise where reserve players act as the team's next opponent to prepare the starters and key role players for the next matchup. 

"Chase is great. Chase is very observant, very intelligent," Painter told the Tribune in a recent interview. "He's worked hard for us and has done a really good job. He knew it before, but until you go to the school where your dad was a really good player and a lot of people here at Purdue, and this community, have a great deal of respect for his dad. So I think it's always cool to hear people tell stories about when his dad was in college."

Chase doesn't mind the comparisons to his old man, who turns 50 in September, because he's respected and a good person, the 19-year-old Martin said.

It would be hard to avoid the topic, as many people associated with Purdue athletics have known Cuonzo longer than Chase has.

"It's crazy because I remember when we were Chase's age and we were in the same arena, practicing and doing stuff," said Boilermakers assistant coach Brandon Brantley, who was teammates with Cuonzo at Purdue. Brantley met the elder Martin when both were being recruited by Keady. "... We were once young guys in here trying to become the best basketball players we could be and trying to figure out life and enjoying college. Life comes at you full circle. Here I am coaching his son.

"I see a little bit of he and Roberta. Zo's a high-energy guy. I love him after the games, man, when he's just howling and giving a lot of energy to his team. Chase will talk trash but he's a quiet guy. He'll kind of slide up on you and kind of talk under his breath. And it's funny. He has his mom's quiet demeanor. So a little bit of both. ... I look in his face and I see Zo and Roberta."

More:Mizzou men's basketball rises into top 10 of AP Top 25 for first time since 2012

Chase has been living in West Lafayette since June, the start of the Boilermakers' summer workouts. He came back once to Columbia in August but hasn't been in Missouri since.

West Lafayette to Columbia is about a six-hour drive, and the lifestyle of a college basketball player amid COVID-19 hasn't allowed for more trips home for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Chase values FaceTime and phone calls with his parents, talking with them about anything, as well as the occasional basketball review with his dad, just like they did throughout his high school career. 

"It's his decision, man. You have to find your way," Cuonzo Martin said of his youngest child. "He was under our umbrella for 18 years and now, he has to spread his wings and fly and then, let the chips fall where they may. But I think he's in a good place. And it's just part of being a man, to get away and grow a little bit."

Back in the town where he was born, Chase is doing his best to bloom.

The youngest of the Martin kin is beginning to write his own story at Purdue, with plenty of chapters still to come.

"I'm really able to live my own lifestyle," Chase said. "Just go buy things, go to practice, go around campus. Just carving out a path for myself."

Contact Eric Blum at eblum@columbiatribune.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.

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