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In just his freshman season, forward Max Martz has played 21.2 minutes per game and leads the team with a 47.5% field goal percentage.

Credit: Amanda Jiacheng Shen

The state of Ohio gave us Quaker Oats. It also gave us another Quaker: Penn men’s basketball freshman forward Max Martz.

Martz is from Columbus, where he played basketball at Upper Arlington High School. It’s rare for Penn basketball players to come out of Ohio, but even less so from a large public school in the state’s capital. With the graduation of Antonio Woods last year, Martz is the only Ohioan on the Quakers.

Coming to play at Penn, Martz didn’t know what to expect, other than that there would be heavy competition for minutes between the Red and Blue’s entrenched stars and the other players in his recruiting class. Through the majority of his first season, Martz has stood out, only trailing guard Jordan Dingle among the freshmen with 21.2 minutes played per game.

Martz has provided consistency in a clearly defined role for the Quakers this season. Coach Steve Donahue expected Martz to come in and contribute right away with his size and shooting ability. Martz has delivered, shooting at a 42.1% clip from beyond the arc, the second-best mark in the entire Ivy League. Donahue also praised Martz’s mental game in making the transition from high school to college.

“He’s someone that we thought would make the transition to college very smoothly,” Donahue said. “He’s got a really good mindset on how to play [and] stays even-keeled through mistakes.”

Donahue had this expectation of Martz going back two years to when he first saw him play live at Penn’s elite camp for high school prospects. Martz impressed the coaches at the camp and was offered a spot on the team shortly thereafter. This offer came unusually early in the recruiting process, and Martz committed when he was just a junior in high school.

Martz always had an eye on Ivy League programs, but only got as far as an elite camp at Princeton and an offer from Dartmouth before his recruitment was closed.

“I committed pretty early in the recruiting process, so I think a lot of my recruitment had yet to unfold,” Martz said.

Donahue was aware of Martz very early in his high school career thanks in part to former Penn basketball guard Scott Kegler, who played for the Quakers in the early 1990s. Kegler is not only from Columbus but went to the same high school as Martz in Upper Arlington. While Donahue credits Kegler for jumpstarting Martz’s recruiting, Kegler praised Martz for how much he impressed the coaches at the elite camp.

“It’s not like I gave him any help, Max did it all himself,” Kegler said. “The coaches were just impressed with his skills, his ability, his size, his motor.”

It was ultimately a win-win for Kegler, who got to see a basketball player from his alma mater go to play at his other alma mater and star right away as a freshman.

“I was thrilled. I love having somebody from my high school [playing for Penn],” Kegler said.

It’s certainly exciting for Kegler and his family — including his parents, who still follow Upper Arlington basketball — to see another athlete from Columbus excel at the next level. 

Kegler has followed Martz closely through his first season, either attending, streaming, or listening to every game and constantly texting back and forth with Martz’s family whenever he has a good game or makes a good play. 

“I like how he plays with confidence. That’s hard when you’re a freshman,” Kegler said. “He acts like he belongs.”

Martz is hoping that he can continue to improve to become a focal point for the Quakers throughout his career. Martz sees in himself the ability to become a multi-dimensional scorer, not just a shooter, and he has the confidence to defend every opponent from guards to bigs.

Whatever improvements may lie ahead, Martz has already proved that he belongs at the collegiate level. 

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