This is definitely Melik Martin's final choice.
After a whirlwind spring and summer that saw the York Catholic graduate explore the prep-school route, commit to Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut and then proceed to pick up multiple NCAA Division I offers, Martin has again changed directions on his basketball future.
On Wednesday, Aug. 16, the 6-foot, 6-inch Martin reclassified to the class of 2017 and committed to play for Monmouth University this upcoming season.
"I loved the school and I love the facilities," Martin said about his trip there earlier this week. "They're a very good team and a very good school, and when I visited I fell in love with the business program there and it just felt like the right move. So, instead of waiting another year ... this school was a good fit for me."
Coming out of York Catholic, Martin wasn't a heralded college prospect, only holding one Division II offer from Lincoln University by the time his senior season ended.
Young for his class, Martin began exploring the prep-school route, which would allow him to mature another year while trying to attract more college interest, especially from Division I schools.
By the time he graduated in May, Martin did pick up an offer from Duquesne of the Atlantic 10 Conference, but he still leaned toward the prep-school route. He eventually settled on Putnam Academy in June, reclassifying to the Class of 2018 and seemingly putting to rest his immediate future plans.
However, because he was still just 17, Martin was young enough to compete for the York Ballers 17-and-under AAU team during the spring and summer circuit. With an opportunity that most seniors don't have, Martin took advantage and dominated, catching the eyes of several mid-major programs that weren't around for his high school days.
Just in one day, Martin received offers from Albany, Gardner-Webb and Lafayette in July, bringing his total to four Division I offers. It was a promising sign of things to come for him.
On Tuesday, Martin took an unofficial visit to Monmouth and picked up an offer afterward. Blown away, his decision came quickly.
"The energy from the coaches," Martin said is what stood out for him about the program. "When I got on campus, coach (King) Rice started jumping around and that's what stood out to me."
However, with Martin's latest commitment, he also had the be the bearer of bad news to Putnam, where he was expected to report in the coming weeks.
"At first, they were a little shocked," Martin admitted. "In the end, they're happy for me and I'm glad that I was going to go there. I'm sorry for the position I left them in, but they're a really good team and they're going to be really good for many years to come."
Plan for the future: It's expected that Martin will redshirt his freshman year to put on some more muscle, adapt to the college game and try to get ahead on his studies.
While he primarily played down low for York Catholic, Martin will most likely play a wing position in college. He said he hopes to showcase his skills as a ballhandler, which he did often in AAU ball, but not as much in high school.
"He can facilitate and run an offense," said Pat McGlynn, who is Martin's coach for the York Ballers. "Brandon (McGlynn) went down in April right at the beginning of the live period and we were up like 20 points on this Ohio team and the next thing you know, we were only up by three. It was unbelievable. It was a total meltdown and I couldn't get guys on our team to bring the ball up and run our offense. It was turnover central and Melik was the guy. He started bringing the ball up the court and running our offense."
Program on the rise: The Hawks have quickly become one of the top mid-major programs in the country over the past few seasons.
While the "Bench Mob" of Monmouth has become famous for its wild celebrations after made baskets or dunks, the Hawks have quickly backed up their play on the court. Under Rice, who recently signed a five-year extension, Monmouth has become a mid-major program unafraid of playing power-five conference schools in its non-conference schedule, usually resulting in a win for the Hawks.
Just in the 2015-16 season alone, Monmouth knocked off major programs USC, UCLA, Georgetown and Notre Dame. The Hawks have won back-to-back Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season titles, but failed to win the conference tournament, being left out of the NCAA Tournament because they play in a one-bid conference.
However, because of the team's strong non-conference schedule and 55-15 combined record over the last two seasons, Monmouth has become a hot topic of conversation for at-large bid consideration, despite playing in a small conference.
"You always want to get on the court with the best of the best," Martin said. "So, you want to prove that you can hang with them and try to beat them."
Martin led the Fighting Irish with a 16.5 points-per-game average last season, helping the team win the York-Adams Division III title and make the PIAA Class 3-A state tournament.
Monmouth is also where Eastern York graduates Andrew Nicholas and Austin Tillotson played in college. Nicholas played his entire career for the Hawks, while Tillotson transferred to Colgate following his freshman season.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org