It took less than a week for Ralph Martino Jr. to find his footing in Overtime Elite.
Martino, the 6-foot-6, 166-pound guard out of Landon, Maryland, spent most of his childhood playing soccer, but at age 15, he hit a significant growth spurt, altering the course of his athletic career. “I couldn’t kick how I used to,” Martino said. “My coordination was off.”
That growth spurt prompted him to turn to basketball and three years after picking up the game, he found a new home in Atlanta. Martino joined the upstart basketball league, this is just the league’s second year of existence, on Monday, November 28 and by Friday, he was already playing alongside some of the nation’s top prospects.
With several injuries on the roster, Martino was tasked to join the Cold Hearts, a team featuring players such as Matt Bewley, Bryce Griggs, Tyler Smith and Atlanta native Bryson Tiller.
In his debut, Martino finished with three points, two rebounds and one assist in just under 20 minutes of playing time. “It was an amazing experience,” Martino said following the loss. “The first game didn’t go how we wanted it to go, but we just have to come back harder next time.”
Cold Hearts coach Ryan Gomes said he has been very impressed with Martino’s ability to communicate in practice. “I said, man, you came into this first practice and you’re going to be able to use your voice like that and hold other people accountable too because you did everything right when you were telling other guys what to do,” Gomes said.
After his debut, Gomes praised Martino for his speed and athleticism, especially on the defensive end of the floor. “I think he can be a great defensive vocal leader on this team,” Gomes said. “That could be his niche because he runs the floor, he has great stamina and by getting deflections and stops, he’ll get open threes and get his transition attacks.”
Martino brings depth to a Cold Hearts team that was without several key contributors on Friday, including Bryce Griggs, Kok Yat, Trey Parker and Jayden Williams.
“He just has to get used to the players and the way we play,” Gomes said. “He’s only been in practice for two days, but for him being a wing player, he’s going to bring a lot of depth for us and a lot of athleticism, especially on the defensive side.”
As a high school senior, Martino joined Overtime Elite with the chance to earn an opportunity to play at the next level, but he also has personal goals.
“I want to get better, become the best version of myself and develop as a player,” he said.