Kate Martin’s surprising rookie year is WNBA’s feel-good story of season

As Caitlin Clark was embarking on her historic college career at Iowa, the constant infatuation with her play helped make household names out of a couple of her teammates. Kate Martin and Gabbie Marshall started alongside Clark for all four years at Iowa, helping provide the defensive backbone and outside shooting necessary for ghe Hawkeyes to go on a pair of runs to the Final Four.

When Iowa ultimately came up short in the national championship game two years in a row, first against LSU and then against South Carolina, a familiar refrain was repeated: Clark was the only future WNBA player on her team. The Hawkeyes were cohesive and well-coached and undeniably captivating, but they didn’t have enough talent around their superstar Clark.

Even Martin seemed to agree with this assessment. As Iowa was going through its 2024 NCAA tournament run, Martin said in an interview that she was trying to cherish every moment because ‘pretty soon’ she was going to be just a “regular Joe Schmo.” Watch the viral clip here:

Martin couldn’t have been more wrong.

The WNBA is seeing a historic rookie class this season, and Martin is the surprise name making an impact. The 6’0 wing is playing a critical role off the bench for the two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces, and her story keeps getting better.

On Sunday night, Martin made her first career start. She finished with 13 points, four rebounds, and three assists on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor and 3-of-3 shooting from three-point range. Watch her highlights here:

[embedded content]

In the matter of months, Martin has gone from playing next to Clark in the national championship game, to being a surprise WNBA draft pick, to playing a meaningful role for the back-to-back champion Aces. It’s one of the most remarkable storylines in basketball right now, and it doesn’t seem like any kind of fluke.

Martin’s pro career started in unforgettable fashion at the 2024 WNBA Draft. Martin was sitting at the draft as a fan when she heard her name called in the second round by the Aces. Watch the video here:

[embedded content]

“I was here to support Caitlin, but I was hoping to hear my name called,” Martin said. “All I wanted was an opportunity, and I got it, and I’m really excited.”

Just making the team was going to be an uphill battle for Martin, but she did it. She was almost immediately a factor in the rotation: Martin got 26 minutes off the bench in her very first game, and has been a key contributor ever since. The Aces have more top-end talent than any team in the league, but that means their bench is thin. A ready-made contributor and high-feel player like Martin has been a gift for the team, and she continues to make the most of her opportunity.

Through eight games, Martin is shooting 39.1 percent from three-point range while playing 21.1 minutes per night. Her shooting and her defense has been key to complementing Las Vegas superstars A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum.

The Aces have been hazing Martin all season by … showering her with love? It seems like everyone loves the rookie.

There have also been Hello Kitty backpacks and the team bus trying to leave her behind. Everyone involved appears to be having a great time, and that’s what happens when you win as often as the Aces and Kate Martin have over the last two seasons.

Martin thought her time in the spotlight would be over once she left Iowa and Clark behind. Instead, she’s playing big minutes for a WNBA powerhouse going for a three-peat. What a delightful season for everyone involved.

Leave a Reply