ActiveForever Member Profile: Natalie Martinez
Former college basketball player Natalie Martinez has found a new obsession to replace her old one. As a consequence, the bulk of her time is now spent on a tennis court instead of the gym. This Albuquerque native was a child star and former three-time All-State basketball player at Rio Grande High before ending up with a college scholarship to play for the famed Kentucky Wildcats.
She’s been done with basketball for more than a decade now however and by now she has sunk the same dedication that made her a great baller into becoming a top tennis player. She’s been a quick study; going from 3.5 to 4.5 in just a few short years, and she’s given herself a heavy dose of competition to get her there. She’s a frequently player and fierce competitor in tournaments and leagues (17 League teams since 2005).
We chose Martinez as our March ActiveForever Member profile because it just seemed a natural fit. We recently caught up with her to hear about her transition from basketball to tennis and, of course to get her March Madness bracket picks. (Don’t worry, her bracket busted, just like ours.)
USTASW: It’s March Madness now and you have a great story as a former college basketball player coming into tennis. Was tennis just a whim after basketball was over? Tell us how you got started and how you ultimately found yourself in the game of tennis.
NM: After playing overseas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I was invited to training camp for the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. When I didn’t make the team, I knew my professional basketball days were over. I had always wanted to try my hand at tennis. I grew up watching the Slams on television with my Mom Mary Ida, and my Dad Joe. I really enjoyed watching Agassi, Sampras, Graf, Sabatini, Capriati…I was told to go see Joe Felice at the Albuquerque Country Club in 2005-2006. He outfitted me in my first racquet and gave me my first lesson. I was hooked!
Although Natalie Martinez, pictured here with her racket, always appreciated the tennis greats she grew up watching, she didn’t play the sport until later in life.
USTASW: Growing up playing basketball in Albuquerque, you ended up out in the Blue Grass State, and playing basketball for Kentucky – Big Blue! Talk a little about that. I’m sure playing Div. 1 college basketball and all those fun arenas was an incredible experience?
Natalie pictured here in her college days wearing her Kentucky Blues!
NM: Every kid who loves playing basketball has dreams and aspirations to play for a big time college basketball program. I was fortunate enough to have been recruited and signed by Kentucky. It was definitely a big decision to leave home and my family, but having the opportunity to play for the Big Blue Nation was something I couldn’t pass up. It is the best conference in the nation for women’s basketball (SEC) and playing on ESPN and in front of thousands of fans was definitely a GREAT experience for me.
Kentuckians bleed blue for basketball. Basketball is a way of life out there and the mens’ and womens’ programs are met with high expectations year-in and year-out to vie for the National Championship. I was very fortunate to be able to watch Rick Pitino’s & Tubby Smith’s Cats practice for four years and learn the game from watching. Tubby Smith’s Cat’s won the Championship in 98’ and boy did we celebrate! It was a great time to be a Wildcat!
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