The fanfare surrounding Jarell Martin’s Thursday press conference was limited. But the response of the Madison Prep student body was immediate.
Martin’s classmates burst into loud cheers and applause when the 6-foot-9½ senior pulled a purple and gold baseball cap out of a shopping bag, signifying that he planned to stay home and attend LSU.
“This has been a long recruiting process, and after a lot of prayer, I’ve made my decision,” Martin told the crowd on hand inside the Madison Prep gym. “The place I will continue my career academically and athletically is ...”
And with that setup, Martin — rated as high as high as No. 12 nationally by Rivals.com — became LSU’s highest-rated local recruit since ex-Capitol star Brandon Bass, now of the Boston Celtics, signed with the Tigers a decade ago. Martin is also the highest profile recruit for first-year LSU coach Johnny Jones.
As a junior, Martin led Madison Prep to the semifinals and was selected as the Class B Most Valuable Player in what was his first year of high school baketball. He averaged 26 points and 14 rebounds per game. Martin sat out his sophomore season after transferring to Madison from Glen Oaks.
Martin originally planned to take college visits during the season and then sign in the spring. Martin is now expected to sign with the Tigers when the NCAA’s early-signing period begins Nov. 14.
Other finalists for Martin included Alabama, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and St. John’s. Two other high profile schools, UCLA and Louisville, dropped off his list of finalists in recent days.
“I just decided to stay at home, and the recruiting class they’ve got coming I think is going to help me get to the next level in the NBA,” Martin said after the ceremony. “I just decided to get it (the recruiting process) out of the way and focus on my senior year academically and basketball wise.”
Martin said he likes Johnny Jones’ up-tempo offensive style and said he discussed his college decision with coaches, friends and family members before deciding on LSU last Sunday.
Madison Prep coach Jeffery Jones told Martin to sleep on his decision to confirm it was the right choice. The next day, Martin told Jeffery Jones his heart and mind were set on LSU, and plans for the press conference were made.
Martin has a core grade-point average of 2.5 and recently took the ACT exam for the first time last week, according to Jeffery Jones. Martin said he hasn’t settled on a college major, but would like to be a teacher-coach some day.
One factor that makes Martin’s recruitment unique is that he has taken no official college visits to this fall, but has attended some LSU football games on unofficial visits.
Martin said he likes the excitement the crowd brings to home football games and talked about bringing the excitement back to LSU basketball like it was in 2006 when both the Tiger men’s and women’s teams made the Final Four.
“I’d to get it back to the way it was when Seimone (Augustus, the former Capitol and LSU women’s star) and ‘Big Baby’ (Glen Davis, the ex-University and LSU men’s star) were there,” Martin said.
Jeffery Jones said Martin’s desire to not lead people on and to finalize a decision prompted Thursday’s announcement. The MPS coach said it was not unusual for the entire LSU coaching staff to stop by the Chargers’ practices.
“He came up with this decision on his own, and I know it’s a relief for him,” Jeffery Jones added.
Martin’s mother, Joyce Veal, said she would have supported any decision her son made, but said: “I’m so excited and proud. I’m glad he’s staying home and going to LSU.”