Usually, Martin is Walsh’s choice to defend the opposition’s best guard, but Smith point guard Derek McMahon was also a handful. McKenna more than did the job against Sulda, limiting him to 11 points. There’s no doubt the preparation paid off for McKenna.
In Martin’s case, the senior guard was really an inexperienced basketball player when Walsh took over. Martin, who didn’t start playing basketball until he was in the eighth grade, credits Walsh with helping him grow quickly.
The coach’s work ethic rubbed off on his players.
“We know that if he’s working hard to get film and he’s telling us how to cover these kids, then we know we can go out and execute,” McKenna said. “It’s definitely a confidence booster.”
A year ago, Walsh and five of his players — McKenna, Martin, Nick Bates, Dan Connors and George Merry — stood together in the DCU Center press room as most of the remaining reporters headed back to the court. One final question was tossed Walsh’s way.
“Is there a chance for a repeat?,” Walsh was asked.
He didn’t commit to anything, but the usually careful Walsh seemed to be considering it.
He knew Merry would be moving on, but a solid core group of players would return.
“I was thinking it, but I didn’t want to say that,” Walsh said. “The kids were too good. I’m not saying it would have happened, but I thought there was an opportunity.”
The Falcons didn’t spend the season openly talking about their goal of repeating, but they were all thinking about it.
“We were returning four starters, we were here last year ... we’re all good players and every day in practice we knew we could make it this far,” Bates said. “We didn’t want to say stuff that might jinx us, but we just knew in the back of our minds that if we worked hard every day in practice we could get back here.”