These days, Tristan Martin is a financial advisor at Canada Life and volunteers as a Director of Financial Literacy for P.H.A.S.E. 1 Youth Association. Tristan’s dream is to one day own his own Financial Advisory company.
But there was a time when his dream was different. An athletic, fast, and competitive child, playing basketball with his brothers and friends in his hometown of Lumsden, Downtown, Toronto Ontario, Tristan had a dream of one day playing at basketball’s highest level-the NBA.
Tristan hit the basketball scene in the late 1990’s and he would quickly become equivalent to the Russell Westbrook of his Toronto high school basketball era, with his ridiculous speed and unruly bounce. He had a chip on his shoulder and a permanent scowl on his face and would shut down gyms with his out of this world athletic dunks.
When Tristan was on the floor every time a lane opened up or a ball got lose and he was headed out on a break-a-way, the whole gym was standing ready to lose their minds. His teammates on-hand will never forget during an open run in “Jungle” Lawrence Heights Community Center, in front of Jim Calhoun, Head Coach U. Connecticut, Tristan jumped over 6’7″ Jemino Sobers and flushed a dunk with ease. The packed gym went silent with disbelief, then quiet chatter before erupting into a frenzy. Tristan Martin’s legacy would forever be crystallized from that day forward.
In the late 1990’s Tristan played for Toronto Elite Development AAU then Grassroots AAU once Wayne Dawkins and Ro Russell merged. Tristan’s and his teammates played many major American Athletic Union (AAU) tournaments and helped established Toronto as a major recruiting hotbed for NCAA Coaches and Scouts. Tristan also became a part of the first large exodus of Canadian high school ballers opting to finish high school at U.S. prep program in an effort to gain greater exposure to future NCAA and professional opportunities.
Tristan was selected to play in the 2001, 2002 and 2003 All Canada Classic Rumble in the T-Dot in , Canada’s longest run national high school all star game for the nations top players. Tristan was the crowd favorite every year to win the dunk contest. Unfortunately for the organizers Tristan was also a backboard breaker with his powerful dunks and in 2003 he shattered the glass at the All Canada Classic- Rumble held at Centennial College in Scarborough, causing the event to be played on half the court and shifting the whole crowd to one side of the court.
Tristan broke a lot of barriers for Canadian high school ballers. He was one of the few athletes ever selected for the prestigious Nike All American Camp in 2001 with big names like NBA legend Amare Stoudemire. He received international all star game selections alongside fellow Canadians Denham Brown and Kevin Massiah and former Toronto Raptor-Pops Mensah Bonsu from Great Britain. Tristan didn’t just participate, he walked away with MVP awards sending a strong message that Canadian ballers weren’t just token invites, they had serious game!
His dream came closer to becoming a reality when he moved to Connecticut, United States, and started playing point guard for the Windsor High School basketball team. Tristan’s skill on the court was praised by his coaches, and noticed by scouts. He was recruited for Gonzaga University straight out of high school. Unfortunately he could not attend, as his grades weren’t on par with his skills on the court.
So Tristan returned home to Canada, and enrolled in the Churchill Secondary School. While here, he met Wayne Dawkins, CEO of P.H.A.S.E 1 Youth Association, and who soon became one of his mentors.
“I was there with Wayne from day one, and he showed me the basketball circuit. He was picking those underdogs, the guys who were actually the most talented, and getting them to play, and a lot of people weren’t doing that,” – Tristan Martin
A year later, Martin returned to America, and attended two prep schools to get back in the circuit for recruitment. He was then offered a scholarship to Midland College in Texas, where he also became captain of the team. Under his leadership, the team won the Western Junior College Athletic Conference Tournament for two years.
We managed to bring back the basketball program to notoriety because back in the day they had a pretty good team, and they just kept it going after I left. – Tristan Martin
Off to University
After junior college, Tristan was offered a scholarship to play for University of Houston.
“I was just so hyped to be going to university. I was in a place with some major history, it was a great experience. We had a really talented team from guys that were living there.” – Tristan Martin.
Unfortunately, while there, he didn’t get to play as much as he would have wanted. And in his final year, his sister died, and he had to return home. Additionally, one of his close friends was also shot at his school.
“It kinda messed up my year because I was going back and forth home to bury my sister, and then I spent too long at home and there was just a lot of things that held me from finishing up my last year of school,” – Tristan Martin
But despite everything, Martin was still grateful to have attended Houston University.
“It was a learning experience, and it shape me up to get to the next level,” – Tristan Martin
The next level at the time for Tristan was enrolling himself in different basketball camps to gain more exposure. So he enlisted himself in a camp in San Benedito Italy, and was awarded MVP of the camp, and scored his first professional basketball contract with the Ascoli Basket. Since then, Tristan has played for the Mill Rats, in the Chinese Basketball Association, The Mounting Miracles, and the London Lightning.
In 2013, he retired from the game, his dream of playing in the NBA not realized, but something he has come to terms with.
“Obviously everybody’s goal was to go to the NBA, but there’s a lot of things that you gotta do to make it there, and it just doesn’t happen for everybody,” – Tristan Martin
But making the transition from a professional basketball player to a ‘normal’ routine was not easy for Tristan. “This whole experience after I played was really humbling because I had to start all over again. Finding something I love to do, something I’m going to have a little bit of passion in, and after playing basketball for my whole life, it was a pretty rough transition, but it was worth it,” – Tristan Martin
Tristan said he had trouble finding a job that would pay him a livable salary. So he made the decision to go back to school.
“I had to go back to school, went and got my certifications, and I just did it the raw way. I had to start all over again, my whole life,” – Tristan Martin
And that decision, according to Tristan, was totally worth it. Now he has the joy of providing financial guidance to other retired basketball players who didn’t make it as big as the NBA.
“I’m in a position where I can help athletes like me who are in financial problems, or who are dealing with the same things I dealt with. A lot of people don’t know that there’s a lot of players who are just playing for the love of the game and they drag on their careers for as long as they can. Some just realize a little early, and they move on,” – Tristan Martin
“Now I can give back to people just like Wayne did for me. He taught us from his experiences and now I can do the same and it feels good to know that this is a big situation that we’re going through right now with COVID-19 and people are trying to figure out where their lives stand right now, and I can help them,” – Tristan Martin
The fulfillment of P.H.A.S.E. 1’s Journey of an Elite 1 is to have them return to assist the next generation of Elite 1’s and Tristan volunteering as Director of Financial Literacy for P.H.A.S.E. 1 Youth Association and providing workshops, mentorship and direction for our youth is blessing to watch.” – Wayne Dawkins
And while he’s routing for any younger player who is dreaming of making it to the NBA, he’s encouraging them to be meek, and have a plan B.
“Always be a student, wherever you go. Don’t go in acting like you know everything just listen, and count your blessings because it can go any day, and just make sure in the process you have a plan,” – Tristan Martin