By Margaret Brinson, Managing Editor
Leaning forward in his chair, Dani Marti is smiling, caught somewhere between the wistful recollection of his ball team back home and the thrill and anticipation of the not-so-distant future. Union’s first men’s basketball game is scheduled for Oct. 31, and for Marti, the prospects are wide open.
“This is bringing back memories from Spain,” Marti said. “We’re really playing for something.”
Of Union’s 13 Bulldog basketball players, nine are newcomers. Of those, five are transfers. Marti, junior business management major and transfer international student from Spain, counts himself among them. This season, he will add 6 feet and 8 inches of shooting, blocking and running the court as a powerhouse forward.
“When I finished high school in Spain, I had to choose between playing basketball and (attending) college,” he said.
Coming to the United States was a way to accomplish both.
After playing his first two years at the University of Rio Grande (Ohio), where he said he was not being challenged, Marti decided to look into Union’s winning program.
“I visited (Union) and the same day I decided to come, straight away,” Marti said.
David Niven, head coach of the men’s basketball team, said he felt Marti would fill a need on the team.
“He’s the kind of guy that can play inside and outside,” Niven said. “His strength is probably his ability to shoot the basket. And, he’s a smart player.”
Niven also emphasized the Spaniard’s loyalty to the other players, who Marti calls not just teammates, but friends.
“He’s shown leadership ability and a care and concern for his teammates,” Niven said. “All of this made it an easy choice — he seemed like the kind of person we’d want here.”
Even with his strengths, Marti said there has been a learning curve since joining the Bulldogs. Runs upon runs and 6 a.m. practices make for a rigorous training schedule, to which Marti said he is just beginning to adapt.
“We’re running a lot, but I’m getting faster. I’m going to limits I didn’t know I could go,” he said.
Union’s style of play, a fast-paced shooting offense, is similar to what Marti said he experienced while playing for Valencia, his hometown in Spain.
While playing for Valencia, Marti said he would lose only two or three games each season — a much different number compared to his time at Rio Grande. Coming to Union was a way for him to again be a part of a top-rated program.
But it is not all about winning for Marti, who emphasized Union’s academic excellence and Christian commitment as factors in his decision to make the move.
Team prayer and prayer requests after every practice are a part of what makes the Bulldog basketball program distinct, which Marti said he appreciated.
“I like it because it helps put everything together,” he said. “You stop thinking about yourself and how much pain you’re in and start thinking about your teammates.”
Marti and the rest of the Union Bulldogs can be seen in action at Homecoming on Nov. 5 against Bellhaven (Miss.) University for their home opener in the Fred Delay Gymnasium at 4 p.m.