‘That phone call will be something I remember forever’: Walk-on Brendan Martin reflects on his time at Quinnipiac

It’s safe to say that when given a lineup of Quinnipiac students and one player on the men’s basketball team, one can correctly pick out the basketball player 99 times out of 100. Senior guard Brendan Martin is the exception.

Martin, a 5-foot-7-inch walk-on for the Bobcats, has spent the past three seasons proving his worth for a team with bona fide talent.

“I was grateful that they gave me the opportunity to come be a walk-on,” Martin said. “They weren’t going to really look for me to be a guy that would be playing a ton, but I’d be a guy that would be a strong locker room presence and a guy that would do whatever was needed in practice.”

A native of South Setauket, New York, Martin grew up just a quick ferry ride away from Quinnipiac. However, he was exposed to the bright lights of Division I basketball from a young age.

“I grew up in a place near Stony Brook University,” Martin said. “I always dreamed of playing for that, and the opportunity to play at Quinnipiac was really similar. Small town, good community base.”

Martin attended Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, where he was a three-year letterman. Averaging 11.6 points and six assists per game as a senior, he helped lead the Patriots to their first league title since 1990.

“In my high school we always said ‘put the dot on the wall,’ and the dot was the year that you’d win the league title,” Martin said. “That was a big moment for us … just the idea of working together and winning a championship is a great feeling.”

Aidan Keenan, a former guard for nearby Commack High School, remembers Martin for his prowess on the perimeter.

“He’s a good ball handler, didn’t really turn it over much, and then he could just shoot from anywhere basically on the court,” Keenan said. “I remember him hitting like four or five 3s against us.”

Martin’s high school career came to a close in the state semifinals at the hands of current Quinnipiac junior guard Savion Lewis.

“I ended up losing to Savion in the high school semifinals for the second year in a row, and I told my parents that Quinnipiac was off the list,” Martin said.

While Martin may have taken Quinnipiac off his list, the schools he was looking to play for were doing the same to him.

“Throughout most of high school I figured I would be Division III basketball player and then towards the end of my high school career, a bunch of schools I had strong interest in weren’t necessarily interested in me,” Martin said.

Martin made the decision to attend Quinnipiac and play various intramural sports as well as club basketball in his freshman year. Lewis, the man who ended Martin’s high school career, was actually one of the first to tell him about walking on.

“My freshman year, I got the chance to talk to Savion,” Martin said. “He told me that there was a walk-on opportunity, and my roommate from freshman year also showed me the post on Twitter, and I ended up deciding to go to the tryout.”

Known to be a dominant player, Martin’s friends at the time believed that he would be the one to beat the odds when trying out for a Division I program.

“He always played pickup with us at the rec center, and it wasn’t fun playing against him because he was so good,” said Dalton Rice, Martin’s freshman year roommate and staff writer for The Chronicle. “If you were on his team, you were winning however many games you played that night.”

After a multiday tryout process and a lengthy wait, Martin learned that he had made the team, a lifelong dream finally coming to fruition.

“That phone call will be something that I remember forever,” Martin said. “I walked into the locker room and they showed me where I was going to be and Jacob Rigoni — who is definitely one of my best friends on the team — saw the emotion that I had and he asked if I wanted to go to a more private place to call my family. So he walked me outside and I called my dad … and then connecting the phone call with my mom, we all just cried.”

Martin has been a member of the team for three seasons, celebrating his senior season in the winter of 2022.

During his career, he made appearances in seven games, accumulating 10 minutes played over that span. Despite the nominal playing time, the weight of the experience was not lost on Martin at all.

“I’ve told these guys time and time again that I live my childhood dream of being a Division I basketball player through them,” Martin said. “I don’t really get the opportunity to play as much, but these are all my friends and we have had great relationships, so the opportunity to live my dream through them has been great.”

On Senior Day against Canisius on Feb. 27, the team honored Martin alongside graduate student forwards Jacob Rigoni and Kevin Marfo. Martin received his first career start as the Bobcats marched toward the MAAC tournament, playing during the opening tip-off but was quickly subbed out for sophomore guard Tymu Chenery, a decision he called “the right idea.”

Guard Brendan Martin earned the first start of his collegiate career on Senior Day against Canisius. (Photo contributed by Dalton Rice)

“I was grateful that they gave me the opportunity to start, but I understood that it was an important game that we needed to win,” Martin said.

Martin accumulated five points and three assists in his career. He scored his first points off free throws against Division III Western New England on Nov. 12, 2021 in a game the Bobcats won by 51 points, and hit his first and only field goal, a 3-pointer, against Monmouth on Feb. 6.

“(It) felt good,” Martin said. “I don’t know if you guys know, but I have one shot, so I’m shooting 100% from the field, 100% from 3, and I’ve got two free throws so I’m shooting 100% from the free throw line. Maybe if we’re up by 20 in a MAAC playoff game, I’ll try to keep that perfect field goal percentage and free throw percentage.”

While Martin did not see the court in Quinnipiac’s first-round matchup against Marist, sometimes a positive attitude off the court is the best thing you can offer your team. Even after making the roster, Martin did not let his elevated status as a varsity athlete affect his morals and the way he lives his life.

“He’s always been the same guy, he’s just been a little more busy,” Rice said. “Obviously, school is big for him.

Every year, when the MAAC All-Academic teams come out he’s always on it … he loves the guys on the team, and he still makes time for us normal folks that aren’t Division I athletes.”

As a finance major, Martin is looking forward to his future beyond Quinnipiac and basketball as he exchanges his jersey for a suit.

“I like to work with a team so everything that I’ve learned in terms of teamwork and compassion and competitiveness I look to bring towards me in my working career,” Martin said. “I tell all these high executives when I interview with them, ‘I’m looking to stay competitive. I like to win.’”