Senior night at Lawlor Events Center on March 9 signified the final home games of the memorable collegiate careers of Jordan Caroline and Caleb and Cody Martin.
The trio of fifth-year seniors brought Nevada Basketball to new heights and were embraced by the home crowd and the Northern Nevada community as a result. Emotions were running high when seven seniors took the floor.
“Four years have gone by so fast here,” Caroline said in a pre-game press conference. “I really enjoyed my time here, but it’s crazy to think that this will be my last time in front of that home crowd… I might cry senior night, just the way the community and everyone embraced us is special.”
Caroline didn’t shed any tears during the farewell, but his emotions were still tough to overcome.
“It was kind of hard to stay focused at times,” he said. “Being such a big game, things just got real emotional out there.”
The Martin twins were joined by their mother, Jenny Bennett, for the senior night presentation in front of a sold-out crowd of 11,243. A single mother, Bennett served as a role model for both brothers growing up and her appearance for their final collegiate home game certainly gave Caleb a lump in his throat.
“It was definitely bittersweet,” he said. “Her walking out there brought a lot of memories and some emotions that came over me, knowing how much we’ve gone through since we’ve been here, it was worth it.”
Nevada’s “big three” propelled the Pack past the San Diego State Aztecs, 81-53, on March 9 to cut the nets and seal the program’s third-straight regular season conference title. Caroline capped his final home game with his 15th double-double of the season with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Caleb and Cody combined for 39 points with five three-pointers on the night.
“Once again, I thought the effort from Jordan, Cody and Caleb was absolutely terrific,” coach Eric Musselman said. “What those three guys did tonight was something I haven’t seen in a long time, saying goodbye to all those fans, but they still kept their focus and intensity on the game.”
With 2:07 remaining in the game, Caroline and the Martin twins were subbed out and received a standing ovation from the Lawlor crowd. Musselman formed a huddle around the three stars before they headed back towards the Nevada bench.
“I just told them I loved them and thanked them for taking me and taking my family on this ride,” Musselman said. “Caroline for three years and the Martins for the last two years. It’s a lot different coaching guys like that.”
All three players have some fond memory about their first game in Lawlor Events Center. Caroline scored eights points on 2-4 shooting and pulled down seven rebounds against Loyola Marymount. The senior forward spent four seasons with the Pack and eclipsed 2,000 career points and is fifth all-time in career rebounds.
“It went well, I remember I was so nervous playing in front of them during the regular season,” Caroline said. “In the exhibition game here at Lawlor before the season actually started I shot like 1-10 so things have changed a little bit since then.”
The twins got off to hot starts in their first home game in the silver and blue. Caleb tallied a team-high 26 points on 8-14 shooting. Cody added 15 points and dished out seven assists. Both players transferred from North Carolina State to Nevada in the summer of 2017.
“It wasn’t my best game, had to knock some rust off,” Caleb Martin said. “It was fun being able to play in front of a crowd again. The stadium wasn’t packed or anything so we had to make sure to get people in the building and I think we did that.”
Cody’s memory is a bit more faded than his twin brother’s when it comes to his regular season debut in downtown Reno.
“I don’t remember too much, it was kinda tough,” he said. “It felt like I hadn’t played in forever, the game speed was just different. It didn’t take that long to get used to it though, that’s the one part I remember.”
Apart from their production on the court, it’s the impact within the community that separates this particular senior group from the others. The team connected with Northern Nevada through luncheons and staying after games to meet with fans, take pictures or even sign a few autographs.
Nevada has shattered several school records this season, but Cody Martin wants this Pack squad to be remembered for their community contributions as well.
“I just want us to be remembered as good charactered people, being a group that works hard and gives back to the community,” he said. “We just want to work hard for them, make sure they’re having fun and have a good experience for some of the best fans out there.”
From soaring dunks to high-arching shots from three, Nevada’s “big three” kept Northern Nevada buzzing for two-straight years. They leave behind a legacy of success that won’t be forgotten and their status in the silver and blue can potentially leave their jerseys hanging on the banners of Lawlor Events Center.