3 leagues, 2 months: ‘Lagari King’ James Martinez thankful to be in demand

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To say James Martinez is a busy player at the moment is a tremendous understatement.

The scoring guard had just made his Chooks-to-Go MPBL Invitational powered by TM debut for the Bulacan Kuyas on Tuesday, December 14, contributing 15 points in a losing effort.

Just 24 hours earlier, Martinez was in-flight from Pagadian City, Zamboanga Del Sur, as his stint with the Roxas City Vanguards in the VisMin Super Cup just concluded.

He even missed the all-star game of that tournament, as he had to report to the Kuyas for the FIBA-style invitational tournament.

And prior to his Roxas City duty, the former UE Red Warrior also saw action for the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards last November for the inaugural Filbasket tournament — wherein he missed three games as the Filbasket and VisMin Super Cup overlapped.

The 34-year-old guard shared how he had to undergo some difficulties during the COVID-19 health crisis last year in an effort to get back in shape, including going on a keto diet while utilizing a personal gym.

“Noong Filbasket, wala pa ako sa (peak form) pero nakaka-perform naman. Sana magtuloy-tuloy dito sa MPBL,” he shared. “Wala rin ako sa kundisyon noon. Nag-cut ako ng sugar, nag-keto ako. Bumilis naman ‘yung pagpayat ko kaya lang nahihilo ako lagi.”

Given that the pandemic situation led to uncertainty in the local basketball and sports scene in general, Martinez feels thankful to still be in demand as pro leagues continue to make their return.

“Nakakataba ng puso kasi kahit papano, may kumukuha sa’yo after two years na walang basketball,” Martinez said.

“May nakakapansin pa rin sa’yo, nakakaalala sa’yo. Suwerte lang rin sa mga coaches na understanding … like sa Roxas, napakabait, pumapayag sila na alam nila, ganyan ang sitwasyon.”

Not even done with his tenure with the Kuyas, Martinez will be even busier in the days to come. He is scheduled to fly to the United States as his wife, Jae Angeles, will soon be due to give birth to their first child.

“Ang focus ko lang naman sa ngayon is ‘yung baby ko. Aalis na ako sa December 30,” Martinez shared, as his family will welcome the year 2022 overseas.

And even as he is focused on both his MPBL career and family matters, Martinez is also fielding calls this early as a handful of teams are already interested in tapping the 5-foot-10 guard’s services for the longer MPBL regular season set to tip off next year.

With stints in various leagues like the PBA, TBSL, and more, Martinez is just grateful to still be playing at a high level, and is open to playing anywhere in the world for as long as he still feels he can contribute — before settling down with his family for good.

“May mga nagtatanong naman para next year,” he said. “Siguro, feeling ko mayroon pa akong two to three years then siguro after noon, may business na rin naman kami ng wife ko, so tingnan natin, as long as kaya pa naman, and depende rin sa sitwasyon.”

Photos from Chooks-to-Go MPBL

Nguyễn J. Văn Linh (Levi Verora)