Like most talented 17-year-old high school basketball players, Melik Martin is weighing his playing options for after high school.
Unlike most kids his age, however, Martin is running out of time.
Despite his young age, Martin just graduated from York Catholic last month and now has just a few weeks left to make his decision on where he wants to continue his basketball career next year. Unlike most kids in his shoes, however, he isn't looking at colleges for his immediate future. Instead, he's decided on the prep-school route, with his list of schools rapidly narrowing.
"As of yesterday, three," Martin said about how many prep schools are among his finalists. "Putnam (Academy in Connecticut), Perkiomen (School in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania) and Lawrenceville (School in New Jersey)."
Garnering attention: By the end of the Fighting Irish season, Martin was set to attend NCAA Division II Lincoln (Pa.) University. Then, through his strong play at the end of the high school season and in some early-spring AAU tournaments for the York Ballers, interest in Martin started to grow. Soon, he received his first Division I offer from Duquesne in May, a school in the Atlantic 10, one of the stronger mid-major conferences in the country.
"I started basketball really late," Martin said. "In eighth grade, I got cut from the basketball team and I've worked hard ever since then and I've gotten a lot better each year. It's a very humbling process because I'm used to being the youngest and I'm used to not being as good as everybody else, so it feels relieving that the work that I've been putting in the last couple years is paying off."
Late developer: Martin began his schooling as a child in Arizona, where it's more common for kids to begin their school years at the age of 4. So, when Martin and his family moved to Pennsylvania, his basketball skills had yet to develop. With basketball after high school not even on his radar, he was simply excited at the prospect of graduating a year younger than most.
As Martin progressed through high school and eventually transferred to York Catholic before his junior year, his skills on the court arrived. But, rather than hold himself back so he'd be the same age as everyone else in his grade, Martin used his young age as a driving force to continue to improve.
"It's helped me being in this grade because it's pushed me to be like, 'Matter of fact, I want to be better than him, even though he's a year or two older than me,'" Martin said.
The 6-foot, 6-inch Martin averaged 16.5 points per game this year playing mostly down low as a forward/center hybrid, helping the Fighting Irish to a 22-4 record and 14-0 mark in York-Adams Division III. York Catholic won the division crown, made the semifinals of the Y-A League tournament, finished third in the District 3 3-A playoffs and qualified for the state tournament.
More options: Duquesne's offer led to Martin reconsidering his future. The prep-school avenue will help him grow his game, while getting another year of college prep education. Meanwhile, he can keep his recruitment open and enter college one year later.
"I, of course, need to get better to play at Duquesne," Martin said. "So, each year, I'm going to try to get better and try and play better and, of course, more things will occur in that time, hopefully, but if Duquesne is the only offer I get, then I'm set with Duquesne. I love that school."
Since reconsidering his options, Martin has already visited other colleges, as well as the prep schools, and hopes to have a decision made within the next couple of weeks.
"It'll be done soon. Very soon, hopefully," he said. "When people ask me what school I'm going to next year, I want to be able to answer."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org