HUNTINGTON - When a college basketball coach refers to a season as a marathon, it's tough for most players to see much past the starting line.
But Marshall guard Chris Martin, he gets it. He learned the hard way last season.
Then a freshman just out of high school, the 6-foot Martin's season stat sheet was littered with the ominous phrase "DNP - Coach's Decision." He was stuck at the end of the Thundering Herd's bench, closer to coach Tom Herrion's lightly worn jacket than to Herrion himself.
That notation stuck to 13 of Martin's first 20 collegiate games. By the end of game No. 23, he had played exactly 23 minutes on the season.
In the 24th game, that number almost doubled. With DeAndre Kane back home in Pittsburgh on bereavement leave, Martin put in 22 minutes in the Herd's 78-68 win over East Carolina. Those weren't in vain - he fired in three 3-point goals in six attempts against the unsuspecting Pirates.
He knew he was going to return to being a bit player, but he had renewed confidence in his abilities.
"That just comes from working hard in practice and being ready, and confidence," Martin said. "When I first got here, I wasn't playing a lot. My confidence, it went down a little bit. I wasn't used to that.
"But as I went in practice every day, I got used to going against guys like [Damier] Pitts and [Shaquille] Johnson, my confidence went up. When they call on me, I'm ready - I feel like Pitts and Johnson, those guards were better than the majority of the guards we played against. Why can't I go out there and compete, too?"
He didn't play more than seven minutes in a game the rest of the season, but he showed up in the Conference USA tournament, in the 105-100 triple-overtime win over Tulsa. He had to.
No, really, he had to get in the game and stay in. When Johnson joined four other teammates with five fouls, a well-rested Martin entered with 34 seconds left in the second overtime, forming an unlikely lineup of Martin, DeAndre Kane, Dennis Tinnon, Dago Pena and Jamir Hanner, with only JP Kambola left on the bench.
In the third overtime, Martin hit a 3-pointer and assisted on the game-turning basket, a four-point play by Pena with 2:20 left.
Martin has had eight months to build on that milestone moment, and stands to get more minutes when the Herd opens its season Friday night at Cam Henderson Center. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.
Pitts and Johnson have exhausted their eligibility and moved on. Kareem Canty, one of two guards Herrion recruited out of high school, has initial eligibility issues that likely will not be ruled upon by Friday night.
On that top of that, Herrion has not decided if Kane will play. He and Nigel Spikes were held out of last week's exhibition game on that all-encompassing "coach's decision," with no further elaboration offered.