Being a walk-on is not easy. It is not for the feeble minded. It is not for players who crave attention. But it is for players who want others to succeed. That’s why Jada Martin, a junior from Winnsboro, South Carolina, was rewarded the first ever walk-on spot under coach Cara Consuegra in her six years at the helm for the Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team.
“We needed players that were going to come in and be unselfish and be committed to making us better,” Consuegra said on Martin. And boy did she strike gold.
Not only is Martin a walk-on basketball player who shows up for every practice and basketball game without receiving a dime from the university, she is also a double-major at Charlotte, juggling computer science and mathematics in the classroom.
“UNC Charlotte had always been on my list of schools to go to, mostly because of my major; engineering,” Martin said.
For most of you that don’t know, Martin had not been watching from the stands at Charlotte games and just thought it would be fun to tryout one day. Instead, the Winnsboro native had been playing basketball for Spartanburg Methodist College, a junior college in Spartanburg, South Carolina, working on her craft for two years while getting her associates degree as well.
Martin ended up at Spartanburg Methodist after an impressive high school campaign, playing five years at the varsity level. Yes, you read that right. Five years. Martin was so skilled as an eighth grader, she would go to class at her middle school then get a ride to Fairfield Central High School to play the game she loved.
In high school, Martin played at a high level, averaging 13.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game during her five-year career for the Griffins. While at Fairfield Central, Martin was nominated to the 2014 McDonald’s All-American game, picked to play in the Carolinas All-Star Basketball Classic and tabbed as an American Family Insurance All-USA South Carolina First selection.
With all of these accolades under her belt, Martin did not receive a high volume of offers in her final two seasons in high school, which could have been due to the fact that she tore her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in her last game of her senior season.
So with her dreams dented because of the major surgery, Martin had a limited hat to pick out of when it came to where she would play college ball.
“Spartenburg-Methodist was one of the only colleges that stayed in contact with me after I tore my ACL so I thought I might as well take it,” Martin said. “The trainers were awesome there and I bounced back in no time.”
Martin was able to bounce back seven months after the surgery, making her healthy for the start of her freshman season. In two years at Spartanburg Methodist, Martin started 21 of the 28 games that she appeared in, posting nine double-digit scoring games.
But after her two years were up at Spartanburg, she wanted to take her academic talents to Charlotte, North Carolina. Whenever she arrived on campus, Martin still felt like she had more to give to the game of basketball, which helped incite her to try and talk to the Charlotte coaches about a possible tryout.
“I had been contacting the coaches but they had already set their mind that there were no tryouts,” Martin said. “I kept coming to the coaches and one day when I went and talked to coach Nicole (Woods), she was like, ‘Guess what? We are having tryouts!’ And I was like ‘Thank you God’ and it went on from there.”
So as September came around, Martin tried out for the team as a walk-on and made it. She was now a Division I basketball player for the Charlotte 49ers in Conference USA.
As a walk-on, your role is limited and is mostly used to help fill a spot on the scout team during practice and to help prepare the team for their next game. With also being a walk-on, the player does not receive financial assistance from the university, but is surrounded with other players that may be on a full-ride or partial scholarships. With some walk-ons not seeing light at the end of the tunnel, Martin did not take the same approach.
“Staying strong and knowing that things will work out in your favor has kept me playing ball,” Martin said. “It can be tough at times because I’m out here busting my butt with these girls but hopefully I’ll be able to work hard enough to better this team and maybe get a scholarship one day.”
With all of her hard work showcased at practice every day and her resiliency to make the Charlotte team, coach Consuegra had some high praise for the junior walk-on.
“It was pretty special that this is a walk-on that knows nothing about our program and culture and she had so many of the characteristics that we build in our players,” Consuegra said. “She brings great effort and heart everyday. She is unbelievable in communicating. She celebrates her teammates. Everything we talk about having in a player, she already has. That was the difference between her and the other young ladies.”