Fried turkey, stuffing, collard greens, sweet potatoes, pecan pie — Brandon Martin has watched his father crush them all at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
“He eats a lot of the food there,” Brandon Martin said, laughing, as he described a typical holiday experience with dad Frank Martin.
Added Frank: “You don’t grow up to be 270 pounds because you’re picky about Thanksgiving food.”
The Thanksgiving holiday in the Martin household is always a special one, often a time when teammates, players and friends come over. But this year’s Turkey Day takes on a different feel for the father and son who, for the first time in their lives, will step to the table as player and coach.
After playing three seasons at USC Upstate, Brandon Martin transferred to his father’s South Carolina Gamecocks before this season in a move that made both father and son a little nervous.
Before making the plunge, Brandon talked with Tyler Underwood, son of Illinois coach Brad Underwood, about the experience of playing for his father and what it was like fitting in with teammates as the “coach’s son.” Meanwhile, Frank said he initially wasn’t sure how Brandon would fit with his roster, but after watching the way Brandon practiced throughout the offseason, he knew “in his heart” that his son would help the Gamecocks.
So far, the move has proved to be a prudent one.
With the Gamecocks struggling to find consistency at the “4” position so far this season, Frank has turned to the 6-foot-5 Brandon to help fill the void. After barely playing in the team’s first two games, Martin played a season-high 18 minutes off the bench against Western Kentucky and played 24 minutes as a member of the starting lineup against UAB. Both of those games were Gamecocks wins, and the play of Martin was a key reason why.
“Brandon has neutralized that defensive deficiency that we had at that spot,” Frank said this week, and he’s said on more than one occasion that he’s proud of the growth his son has made.
Though he’s not built like the prototypical power forward, Brandon brings a jack-of-all-trades skill set to the roster, playing aggressive defense and showing a nose for rebounding. During this time of reflection and gratitude, Brandon said he’s thankful just for the opportunity to play for his father and the Gamecocks.
“This is a very big dream come true,” he said. “I never would have thought I would start a game here. I’m just trying to do the dirty work, do whatever I can. I try to be like the Draymond Green of this team, and just whatever I can help my team do, whether it’s rebounding, passing, making hustle plays, doing whatever I have to do to help us win.”
Even though Martin has mostly played well in his minutes on the court, he hasn’t been immune to his father’s trademark yelling. Known for his fire, Frank hasn’t held back from shouting at his son when he’s made a mistake on the court. Brandon said he’s not quite used to that level of rage from his dad, saying he was only yelled at “a couple of times” as a kid.
But don’t expect that on-court dynamic to cause any awkwardness at the dinner table.
“On the court I really don’t take it to heart because at the end of day, I’ll look and I’ll be like, ‘That’s my dad yelling at me. Like, there’s not that many bad things he really can say. He kind of raised me,’ ” Brandon said, laughing. “I just kind of keep a good mindset and just try to listen to what he’s saying, not how he’s saying it. And I think I’ve tried to enforce that on my teammates and stuff and just try to encourage them not to get down when he yells at him when he’s just trying to help us win.”
All the yelling is actually a welcome sight (and sound) for Brandon, considering the medical issues his father dealt with a year ago. Frank contracted the COVID-19 virus twice, losing his hair in the process. Martin said his second case of the virus sapped him of energy. Last year’s Frank was a more subdued Frank, but that’s not the case anymore.
Brandon is thankful for that.
“He’s in practice now yelling, doing what he does, and it’s just good to see life in him,” he said. “He always reverts back when he’s talking about that, like how he’s feeling more like himself, and he’s glad to have the opportunity to coach this team and just be back to Frank Martin.”