Bordentown basketball player Jordan Martin takes a shot during a 68-58 home win over Delran Jan. 24, 2019. (Photo by Suzette J. Lucas.)

Jordan Martin was ready for a breakout season with the Bordentown Regional High School boys’ basketball team. It just might have taken a little longer than he would have liked. Already regarded as one of the area’s top returning players after totaling 506 points his first two years with the team, the junior was slowed early in the campaign by a sprained ankle as well as having to adjust to being the focus of opposing defenses.

Martin scored 16 points in the Scotties’ opener, but then was held to single digits in five of his next seven games. After a week break, Martin bounced back to score a total of 76 points in Bordentown’s next three contests, tallying at least 22 in each. The outburst pushed his average to 13.8 points per game.

In previous seasons, Martin was a dangerous complementary piece playing aside 1,000-point scorers Darnill Brown, Manny Ansong and Jacquey Mendez. Last year, Martin averaged 12.2 points per game.

“Now he’s getting the experience — it’s you,” Bordentown coach John Myers said about the change in focus. “I told him it was coming, but it’s one of those things you don’t know what it’s like until you go through it. They aren’t going to let him do what he wants to do. He couldn’t figure out how to get points when he wasn’t shooting well. That’s what great players have to figure out.

“There is no doubt in my mind that he’s going to be up on that list (of all-time top scorers at Bordentown) and be one of the greats, but he’s figuring it out and it’s hard. I don’t think he knew what it was going to be like, that people would be gunning for you. He’s figuring that out. He’s a very talented kid. He’s a great kid. He’s going to be alright.”

Martin acknowledged the transition was difficult, but accepted the challenge.

“I’m not going to make excuses,” Martin said. “I’ve got to find some consistency. There’s a bunch of ways to score on the floor. My game has developed every year, but I want to get better. You can always get better, put in extra work. Some games are frustrating, but it’s only one game. You move onto the next. There is always another game to show what you can do. I’m just trying to help my team win games. My main goal is to take my team as far as I can take them, hopefully to states.”

One of the ways he is trying to help, beyond scoring points, is by being a leader, both through words and by example.

“The coaches always give me feedback on how I can become a better leader every day,” Martin said. “I push myself to see other ways I can talk to my teammates, how I can come at them, and help them better understand how to play the game.

“I don’t mind being vocal,” he said, laughing. “I’m very comfortable speaking my mind. I don’t have a problem with that.”

Christian Burnett, the team’s only senior, and junior Gavin Shiver were among a group of Scotties helping to carry the scoring load through the first half of the campaign. Burnett was averaging 11.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while Shiver was averaging 11.7 points.

“I feel I got off to a little bit of a slow start, but mentally I’ve picked it up a little bit and it translates onto the court,” Burnett said. “I just wanted to get wins, and for me to perform well so that we could get those wins. I just wanted to be part of a team effort.

“We got off to a bad start, but we’ve picked it up. Our defense was just bad. Defense and turnovers are big for us. As long as we get that together, we’re a good team, we’re a skilled team. We can compete with anybody.”

Burnett, at 6-foot-4, gives the Scotties a strong presence in the middle, thanks to not only his size but his quickness. In addition to his scoring and rebounding, he averages a blocked shot per game.

“I love how Christian has been playing this year,” Martin said. “That’s my guy. I talk to him on a personal level, both on and off the court, about how we both can get better as players, how we can feed off each other’s energy.”

Added Myers, “He’s been playing unbelievable. He’s been a real force. I think he’s taken pride in being the guy in the middle. I think that’s meant a lot to the team. And he feels like he can do better, and I think that’s a great tribute to an athlete. He says it. He says I know I can be better. That’s a great way to be.”

The Scotties endured a demanding early-season schedule, a slate that resulted in a 1-4 start, and created the need for a little “soul searching.” After watching the squad even its record at 6-6 by late January, Myers was happy with what was found.

“They’re talented, but young,” Myers said. “It’s been such a great thing for them to experience. They got shellacked by St. Joe’s Hammonton (74-38) and it might have been the best thing to happen. They realized how good those kids are. We had a lot of soul searching. It would be so easy to give up.

“I’m really proud of them. I’ve seen a lot of growth. We’re having trouble with consistency, but we’re not having trouble with competing. I don’t know what the record will look like, but I think they could be really good when we hit the middle of February. They’re just an interesting group of guys. I’m really enjoying this year.”