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West Virginia transfer Esmery Martinez brings a new emphasis on offensive rebounding to Arizona women’s basketball

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 02 Women’s - West Virginia at TCU Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s long been a complaint of Arizona women’s basketball fans. Why don’t the Wildcats focus more on the offensive boards? Will head coach Adia Barnes ever change that focus? Those fans just might get their wish this year because of one player. That player is forward Esmery Martinez who transferred to Arizona from West Virginia during the offseason.

“I didn’t emphasize it in the past because we didn’t have a great offensive rebounder and just kind of off personnel,” Barnes said. “And I don’t value offensive rebounds. I value transition defense. But with someone like her, she would be able to crash. She would be someone I sent to the glass. I would be strategic about that. I wouldn’t change my whole philosophy, but I would cater it towards her just like when (Aari McDonald was) here. She was one of the best rebounders in the country. She rebounded better than most post players. I always sent her to the glass. So, just kind of going off of what we do best and what we have.”

Martinez has been above the 90th percentile in offensive rebounds every year of her college career according to Her Hoop Stats. As a freshman, she averaged 2.4 offensive boards and 6.8 total boards per game. That placed her in the 92nd and 91st percentile, respectively.

Martinez had her best rebounding year as a sophomore when she grabbed 3.4 offensive rebounds and 11.6 total rebounds, putting her in the 98th and 100th percentile. The 11.6 RPG placed her 11th in Division I during the 2020-21 season.

Last year, the 6-foot-2 forward landed in the 97th percentile in both total rebounds and offensive rebounds. She corralled 2.9 offensive boards and 8.8 total boards. That was good enough to be one of the top 100 rebounders in women’s basketball, putting her at No. 76 in the nation.

“I think I’m blessed,” Martinez said. “I just go to rebound the ball anywhere it goes.”

Arizona’s special assistant to the head coach Bett Shelby spent three years watching Martinez when they were both at West Virginia. While she praised the ability of Martinez to score and defend, that’s not what stands out most about her.

“I think her biggest attribute and what really makes her special is her ability to rebound the basketball,” Shelby said. “She’s probably one of the best, if not the best, rebounders I’ve ever coached. She just knows where the ball is coming off the rim and she goes and gets it... She’s just extremely hard to keep off the glass, especially on the offensive end. She just goes and gets the rebound and puts it back in. She’s hard to box out. She’s hard to keep off the glass. She has like a Dennis Rodman ability to go rebound the basketball, and that’s really hard to teach.”