Butler star Kelan Martin has grown into a versatile and ‘spectacular’ player

Butler forward Kelan Martin (30) shoots against DePaul in the first half of a game in Indianapolis recently. (By The Associated Press)

INDIANAPOLIS – Butler University senior forward Kelan Martin told his new coach, LaVall Jordan, from day one: Coach me, I want to get better.

That has to be a bit of a revelation not just for Butler fans, but also to Martin, himself.

He hasn’t always been so open to constructive criticism and Martin would be the first to admit such.

However, those days are long past.

Butler (17-9, 7-6 Big East) will host Georgetown (14-10, 4-9) tonight at 6:30 p.m. (CBSSN).

There isn’t a player in the Big East Conference that has been as productive – at both ends of the court – as Martin in recent weeks, and his coach said that is a testament to the player and his emotional maturity.

“He’s hungry to be better,” Jordan said of Martin recently. “That was the initial impression that I got when I first met ‘Key,’ when we got the job here.

“He wants to be better. He’s coachable.”

That wasn’t the case a year ago when former Bulldog coach Chris Holtmann risked losing a critical league game by benching Martin for 30 minutes at Marquette (Butler squeaked out a 3-point win) in order to make his point about Martin’s level of play.

Holtmann – like Jordan – has emphasized to Martin that as good of a scorer as he is – and he can be great at times – the Bulldogs need more out of the senior than just points.

Both coaches have sought more discipline from Martin at the defensive end of the court, as well as an ability to be PART of the Bulldogs’ offense, not necessarily THE Bulldogs’ offense.

“He’s worked on his fundamentals,” Jordan said. “He’s a much better passer, a much better defender than he was earlier in the season.

“He’s made a real commitment to that.”

Until the Bulldogs’ most recent game (an 86-75 defeat at Villanova), Martin was on quite the tear in terms of sharing the ball. He had totaled a combined 13 assists in the prior three games, which was just one assist shy of his best three-game stretch of the year.

His 57 assists so far this season blow away his previous season-best mark of 40 as a junior.

“There have been a lot of good conversations about what we need him to do,” Jordan explained, “and how he needs to grow.”

Martin is absolutely emerging as a much more significant part of the Butler offense, aside from just scoring, but as Jordan mentioned, the 6-foot-7 forward has been far from focused on just one end of the court.

Martin currently is 16th in the Big East Conference in rebounding at 5.4 boards per game and he totaled 20 boards in the three games prior to the one at Villanova.

He said recently that he is simply trying to make “winning plays,” and his coach concurred.

“He’s made a commitment to dive in and do whatever the team needs,” Jordan said.

As often is the case, however, Butler does “need” Martin’s scoring, which has never been better.

Martin is not only scoring, he is doing so accurately.

He has averaged 30 points per game over the last three games and leads the Big East with a 23.5 point per game average.

From an accuracy standpoint, Martin has been unreal.

Over the past three games, he is connecting on 52 percent of his shots overall and 53 percent from 3-point range. That latter number was in the 20s earlier this season, so his growth has been phenomenal.

He has climbed to fifth on the all-time scoring list in Bulldogs history overall and sixth in 3-pointers made.

“Kelan was just spectacular,” Jordan said after watching Martin drop 34 points in a recent overtime loss to Xavier, “in terms of his competitive will in the moment and in a big-time game like that.”

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.

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