Caleb Martin has been one of the NBA's recent undrafted success stories. After going undrafted out of Nevada in 2019, Martin was signed by the Charlotte Hornets. After playing sparingly in his rookie year, he appeared in 53 games in the 2020-21 season. However, he was ultimately waived by the Hornets prior to the 2021-22 season. He signed a two-way contract with the Miami Heat, eventually being upgraded to a regular contract in February 2022.
This past season, Martin appeared in a career-high 71 games and started a career-high 49 for the Heat. In fact, he set career highs across the board as he became a crucial member of the Heat's rotation and starting five. However, it turns out there was a surprising figure behind Martin's transfer to the Heat.
J. Cole Vouched For Martin's Ability
Martin is from North Carolina, born and raised in the state while also briefly attending high school in Virginia. After being cut by the Hornets, he returned home to try and find another gig on an NBA roster. One of the places he trained was a gym owned by rapper J. Cole. After seeing Martin play, Cole reached out to his friend, Miami Heat Assistant Coach Caron Butler. "He had reached out to me and told me he had a very, very talented guy that was just wrecking shop up here in North Carolina and he had just got released from the Hornets," Butler told The Charlotte Observer. He continued. "Obviously, we were still trying to improve on our talent. He reached out to me and I just invited him to an open scrimmage in the summer and from that point on he really earned his way on."
He continued. "But J. Cole having the foresight in knowing Caleb can come and help a contending team was just amazing." Butler also praised Cole's eye for basketball talent. "He has a great eye for talent, but I think he just sees the grind and the drive in people," Butler said. "He knows that someone like Caleb was going to go out there and play extremely hard, play with a lot of grit and a lot of passion. 'O' did a great job of working him, training him. Some of our philosophies that we teach, he did a great job of echoing our voice and making sure that he's up to speed because he's been working with him for so long. Between him and Cole and all those guys, it's been a remarkable partnership."