An incredible season for Northwestern has come to a close, but before bidding adieu to the historic campaign, let’s take a look back and review some of the individual performances that fueled the team. Today we’ll look at Nick Martinelli, the first-year forward from Glenview, Illinois.
After a sensational career at Glenbrook South High School, the local product came to Evanston as a high recruit, but was not expected to have major contributions in year one. When injuries to Luke Hunger and Julian Roper II left a vacuum for rotation minutes, Martinelli seized the opportunity and made the most of it. He was the only freshman on the team to play consistent minutes and was an important role player for the ‘Cats in the stretch run of the season because of his hustle, basketball IQ and seamless ability to play with Northwestern’s veteran players.
The following numbers are from sports-reference.com:
Although on paper his statistics look relatively pedestrian, Martinelli is the type of player who has a greater impact than the box score indicates. On a team largely made up of upperclassmen, Martinelli averaged 2.6 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. He added six assists and six steals over the course of the season. Defensively, Martinelli executed his role in Northwestern’s stout team defense and showed a surprising amount of poise for a player so green to college hoops, rarely, if ever, missing lanes or assignments.
In a smaller sample size, Martinelli shot the ball well, with a stellar 21-of-41 mark on field goals for his freshman season, including 4-of-8 on threes. The lack of attempts should not be interpreted as a deficiency in aggression from Martinelli. Rather, the 6-foot-7 forward knew his role and was not overzealous in his shooting, opting for high-percentage shots or deferring to the primary scorers on the team.
The following stats are taken from hoop-math.com
In part due to having only 41 shot attempts, Martinelli’s numbers may be skewed and may not accurately depict what we can expect from the forward in the future. However, the true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage are among the highest on the team. One area of concern might be an astronomically high 53.7% mark for the percentage of Martinelli’s shots that are two-point jumpers. Although he actually made these attempts at a high clip, this is generally a low-percentage shot. A swing toward more three-point attempts and layups would yield more efficient metrics.
Martinelli played his way into the rotation and deserved minutes regardless of other injuries. He immediately became a likable player with high-effort plays and adaptability. Despite numbers that don’t jump off the page, Martinelli is by no means a passive player. Some highlights for the first-year forward include a career-high nine points against Iowa and consecutive games where he received a season-best 18 minutes of game action against Rutgers and Penn State in the conference tournament.
In the first of those bouts, Martinelli snagged four rebounds, including three offensive boards as the ‘Cats clinched the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. He followed that up with a six-point, four-rebound game at the United Center, providing a source of scoring when other Wildcats were out of rhythm.
Martinelli definitely has a bigger role to grow into on both sides of the ball. The freshman will be asked to do more offensively next season, especially if Robbie Beran is no longer a Wildcat. Defensively, Martinelli was a cog in the machine of a successful Wildcat defense, but has space to develop as an individual defender, especially closer to the basket. With his 6-foot-7 height, there is no reason to believe Martinelli won’t become an effective defender.
Once again, it is a small sample, but it’s worth mentioning Martinelli only shot 6-of-12 on free throws on the year. As he grows into a larger role in the half-court offense and gains more trips to the charity stripe, it’s crucial that Martinelli shoot better than 50% from the line. All of his other shooting metrics indicate that this improvement is both possible and likely.
For Martinelli, it’s all about reps. This season provided a strong foundation without a doubt, but he could have a very different role next season. Depending on whether any seniors return for an extra year and the return of Roper II and Hunger, Martinelli could find himself expected to carry a greater burden offensively or competing for minutes. If Martinelli becomes a more aggressive ball-handler and reliable three-point shooter, it will be hard to deny him an important role on the 2023-2024 version of this team.
The Bottom Line
Nick Martinelli provided everything the program could have imagined and more in his first season in purple. He has good size and intangibles and has already proven an ability to play alongside the key members of the team in Chris Collins’ system. The local product should continue to emerge, now with tournament experience under his belt. On this current track, Martinelli looks poised to become a contributor and program staple over his next few years in Evanston.