Wilmette, Sports

Former Ramblers star ends college career with big trophy in her hands

Julia Martinez’s days of playing high-level basketball are likely over, but the Loyola Academy alumna is not walking away from the game.

The graduate student wrapped up her college career on a high note when Saint Louis University beat Minnesota 69-50 on April 6 to win the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, or NIT.

Martinez, a 5-foot-10 guard, contributed 3 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals in her 141st and final college game. The rebounds, assists and steals were all team bests.

The final was played across the Mississippi River at Southern Illinois Edwardsville but still felt like a home game, according to Martinez.

“A lot of Saint Louis blue in the stands,” she said. “Our band was able to come.”

Julia Martinez, competing against Loyola Chicago, is among SLU’s all-time leaders in rebounds, assists and steals.

As the final seconds ticked away, Martinez made a point to soak up the atmosphere.

“I wanted to take it all in — my last time playing on the court with this group of women,” she said.

Now it’s on to a job search in the Chicago area.

“I did consider playing overseas,” Martinez said. “But I decided it was time to hang it up and move on.”

There could be rec league ball in her future — “there’s always some leagues you can join” — and possibly more.

“Maybe down the road I’ll coach a little bit,” Martinez said. “We’ll see. I’ve been told I’d be a good coach.”

Possibly even back at Loyola Academy.

“We’re going to try to steal her, for sure,” Ramblers coach Jeremy Schoenecker said. “I’m hoping that she wants to come back home.”

He saw the potential for Martinez to succeed on the sidelines even in high school when she would come off the floor and offer suggestions to coaches.

“She has a great eye for things and she relates to kids so well,” Schoenecker said.

For her part, Martinez appreciates how Schoenecker and his assistants helped her elevate her game to the Division I level.

“Coach and his staff, they have such a high IQ in basketball,” she said. “He would still get on me and he was still coaching hard. We had a good relationship so I could accept that.”

Martinez celebrated as a senior after she broke Loyola’s assists record. | Photo from Loyola Academy

A rarity in the portal era, Martinez spent her entire five-year college career at Saint Louis. She wound up as the only player in program history to finish in the top 10 in assists, rebounds and steals. She had two triple-doubles this season and finished with career averages of 5.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.1 apg and 2.1 spg.

There were good times and challenges, which she’s reflected on since the end of the season.

“I definitely have been able to look back,” Martinez said. “I’ve been through a whole coaching change, teammates I was close to who ended up leaving, juggling injuries.”

But there’s always been more than basketball in her life.

“A big reason why I stayed was my major,” she said. “I’m getting a master’s in athletic training, (which is) three years of undergrad, two years of grad school.”

Schoenecker wasn’t at all surprised to see Martinez’s growth as a player over her time at Saint Louis.

“When she got to college, she became a better shooter,” he said. “She saw the floor extremely well, was a phenomenal defender.

“She was able to get bigger and stronger, knock down threes. Her rebounding was able to get her some extra points.”

And her all-around game was able to help nail down a championship in her college finale. Not a bad ending to this chapter in her life.

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Mike Clark

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