When basketball takes a back seat

Kelvin Martin, a sophomore forward with Charleston Southern, scored 15 points against the Citadel on Tuesday at McAlister Field House.

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Kelvin Martin rode past a tank and an airplane Tuesday night on his way through The Citadel campus.

Symbols at The Military College of South Carolina were nothing new for a Charleston Southern basketball player born in Germany, raised in an Army family and taught to prepare for almost anything.

Almost.

Not much in the handbook about how the son of a sergeant should handle sketchy reports of a killer at Fort Hood. Or how to pray through disbelief from 1,200 miles away.

Kelvin's father, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Martin, was among the dozens of people wounded Nov. 5 when 13 were killed in a massacre that stunned the nation.

Eventually, all the Martin family horror ended in a teary hospital embrace.

But only after much Texas bloodshed, two surgeries and bittersweet presidential encounters.

Martin led Charleston Southern University with 15 points and 10 rebounds and intercepted The Citadel's last-gasp pass attempt in the Buccaneers' 61-60 victory Tuesday night at McAlister Field House.

What an emotional twist from two weeks ago.

"It's been hard but I've stayed focused," said Martin, a 6-5 sophomore forward from Adel, Ga. "My dad told me not to worry about him, just to worry about school and basketball. So that's what I've done.

"An experience like this really does make you stronger. It's made me realize a lot of things, like you can't take life for granted."

Surviving the attack

Paul Martin was patiently waiting in the fourth row of chairs at Fort Hood's Soldiers Readiness Processing Center preparing for the last paperwork details of deployment to Iraq via Kuwait.

Suddenly, Army officials said, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan jumped on a table, reportedly screamed "Allahu akbar" (Arabic for "God is great") and began blasting away with a semi-automatic handgun.

"I couldn't believe it. It was like a movie," Paul Martin said Tuesday from Texas. "I was wondering who would take care of my wife and three sons."

Martin attempted to play dead after he was shot in the arm, but the 27-year Army veteran altered strategy when he heard reloading. Running toward a double set of glass doors, Martin was shot in the back.

He was shot twice more, in his other arm and left leg.

"I crawled and I made it behind a table," Martin said. "I was bleeding. It got quiet, and I think he was reloading again. I said to another soldier, 'We've got to get out of this building.' "

Finding out

Charleston Southern players tried hard Tuesday night to win a basketball game.

So did Citadel players.

But words like "effort" and "courage" will never mean the same things to Kelvin Martin. His father finally stumbled out the doors and into fresh air. Fellow soldiers rushed to his aid.

The shooter eventually was wounded and is recovering.

Paul Martin has had two surgeries but has been moved out of the hospital and into a recovery center.

Kelvin Martin first found out about the shootings while working the ticket booth at the Big South Conference soccer tournament at Blackbaud Stadium on Daniel Island. One of his brothers called.

"He told me my dad got shot," Martin said. "I called my mom to make sure. She told me it was true. I tried to call my dad and could never get in contact with him."

Paul Martin lost his cell phone while scrambling for his life. He has a new phone now. Velda Martin, Kelvin's mom, keeps family and friends updated on medical progress if dad forgets.

Of course, Kelvin gets his share of the love.

"He's a great kid," Velda Martin said Tuesday. "Never had a problem with him. He's my baby."

And a superb basketball player.

Strong on and off court

"Kelvin is the best athlete in our league," Charleston Southern basketball coach Barclay Radebaugh said. "He's the most competitive player I've ever been around."

High praise for a coach who has worked at Miami, South Carolina, Wofford, Furman, East Tennessee State and Winthrop.

Martin started 21 games as a Charleston Southern freshman, finishing third on the team in scoring at nine points per game.

"Kelvin's personality fills up the gym and he's just a pleasure to be around," Radebaugh said. "He always has a smile on his face."

Now the kid and his dad have one heck of a survival story to share. President Barack Obama, during his somber visit to Fort Hood last week, visited Paul Martin and the rest of the family. So did former President George W. Bush.

"Most people never get to meet a president in their life," Paul Martin said. "I got to meet two of them."

"Amazing," Kelvin Martin said, "just amazing that I got to meet the president of the United States."

Velda Martin said it was "exciting" meeting Obama.

"And his wife too," she said. "But I wish it was not under those circumstances."

Kelvin Martin spent two days in Texas and rushed back to campus in time to travel with the Buccaneers to Maryland for their 89-51 season-opening loss Friday night.

Father and son have had many heart-to-heart talks over the years. Few were like that last one in Texas.

"When I came out of surgery, Kelvin was really strong," Paul Martin said. "But I could tell he was trying to be stronger than he really was. I told him, 'You can't be strong all the time. Sometimes, it's OK to cry.' And he hugged me."