Every time junior center Safiya Martin puts on her Temple jersey before a game, she calls home to Fayetteville, Georgia after warm-ups to hear a pep talk from her mother, Charmaine Heard.
Since coming to Temple in August 2013, Martin has not traveled back to Georgia. Instead of going back home, Martin works closely with coach Willnett Crockett, who won two national championships playing for Connecticut, everyday to work on her game.
“I’ve always kind of been a hard worker, especially in the classroom because my mom always really hashed on stuff like that,” Martin said. “She always tells me to have confidence in myself, and it gives you that little boost of energy.”
Martin saw 741 minutes on the court in her sophomore campaign last year, leading the team with 50 blocks while collecting 161 rebounds.
The 6-foot-4-inch center said she saw more time than expected, but Martin scored a team-low 85 points in 2014-15.
“In the offseason, it was everyday being in the gym, just working on the little things and doing drills to become another option,” Martin said. “Granted, you have guards, but I don’t want to put all the pressure on them. Even know they can take it 100 percent, I want to contribute as well and be consistent.”
Martin, who averaged 2.8 points per game last season, said her goal this year is to become more of an offensive threat to help her team reach the Division I Women’s NCAA Tournament in March 2016.
In Temple’s season-opening 97-91 win against the University of Florida Nov. 13, Martin fouled out after playing 13 minutes totaling two rebounds, one block and no points.
When Temple traveled to La Salle Nov. 18, Martin went 3-of-5 from the field, totaling six points in Temple’s 77-48 victory.
Martin scored four total points in Temple’s two loses to Rutgers University Nov. 22 and Quinnipiac University Nov. 24.
“I have seen a difference in style of play, especially in the La Salle game,” Martin said. “But I want to continue that and be consistent with it, not just little spurts.”
Because Martin is an upperclassmen and a captain, coach Tonya Cardoza expects more assertiveness in her offensive presence.
“For Safiya, a lot of it is about being confident,” Cardoza said. “A lot of times last year she was just out there on the offensive side, and the man didn’t have to guard her.”
Martin, who totaled two double-figure scoring games in 2014-15, shot 42.4 percent from the field last year.
“She has put in the time and the effort,” Cardoza said. “She works at it all the time. It is just about being confident in game situations.”
Junior center Taylor Robinson scored 98 points last season, averaging 3.9 points per game. Robinson and Martin were the only two centers last season.
Robinson, who goes head to head with Martin at practice, said Martin’s summer preparation with Crockett is paying off.
“She’s definitely been more of a threat on the floor, and she can play a whole game,” Robinson said. “She can rebound, she is way better at scoring and got a ton better from freshman year till now.”
This season, Martin is averaging 2.8 points per game this season in 99 minutes of action. She is second on the team with 26 rebounds and has a team-high eight blocks.
“I am not the player I want to be,” Martin said. “I am not the player I could be.”
Connor Northrup can be reached at email@example.com.