MARTIN, Tenn. – The Senior Night festivities that occurred before the men’s basketball game at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center on Saturday, Feb. 25 meant just a little more for University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball star Javier Martinez.
Martinez, the Virgin Islands native who was named to the 2017 All-Ohio Valley Conference team yesterday, was all smiles as he was accompanied by his mother Gumercinda Lopez.
Eight hours earlier, Martinez had just seen his mother for the first time since 2010. The reunion was part of a scheme devised by the Skyhawk coaching staff.
“To be able to provide that opportunity for her to see her child – who is now a man – having success on the court and is going to graduate in the summer, you can’t ask for more,” UT Martin head coach Anthony Stewart said. “That’s what it’s about – touching lives, helping others and paying it forward.”
Lopez arrived in Martin on Friday evening but had to wait until Saturday morning to see her son. It was then that Stewart called an impromptu “Senior Night” meeting with Martinez while Lopez was waiting behind a closed door just outside Stewart’s office.
When Stewart’s door swung open, Martinez and Lopez shared a special moment that was full of emotions. Tears were flowing as the mother and son embraced for several minutes.
“It was the happiest and most emotional moment of my life,” Martinez said. “When Coach opened the door and I saw my Mom, I looked up and I was like ‘no, this can’t be real.’”
“I told him ‘I love you, I miss you’,” Lopez said. “Anytime he speaks to me, it’s the same thing – he says, ‘Mom, I’m going to make it for you.’”
Martinez departed his hometown of St. Croix in 2010 before relocating to Delaware for two years. He then moved to Missouri to play at St. Louis Christian Academy, which is where he caught the attention of the UT Martin coaching staff.
Fast forward four years and Martinez has developed into one of the best players in the OVC. His 67.7 field goal percentage ranks fifth in the nation while he posted a league-high 10 double-doubles in 16 OVC games this season.
With his mother cheering him on from the stands for the first time in seven years, Martinez shot 9-of-10 from the floor for 19 points while hauling in a game-high 12 rebounds in a win over Murray State on Saturday. The win clinched the Skyhawks’ second straight OVC West division championship but the victory meant so much extra for Martinez.
“My mom is my role model,” Martinez said. “She raised me the right way to love people, serve people and to be respectful of others. If you do good, good is going to come back to you.”