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  • Writer's pictureAna Lise

The Magic Behind Kate "Money" Martin

In a season where there have been more eyes than ever on the WNBA– and plenty of conflicting opinions to accompany them– virtually every viewer has agreed on one thing: the story of Kate Martin entering the league has been special. 


Martin spent six years playing NCAA basketball with the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, her dream program since sixth grade, of which her aunt was the then-assistant coach. She was a captain of the team from her sophomore year onwards, and that’s where she began to be called “the glue,” a nickname first coined by then-Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder in 2021.


It meant everything it sounds like- from both a captaincy and player perspective, she held the team together, a team that would make it to back-to-back championship games in March Madness for the first time in program history. 


Kate Martin smiles with her arms raised on a basketball court as confetti falls around her.
Kate Martin celebrating winning Iowa's Elite Eight game in 2024. Photo courtesy @iowawbb / Instagram

Another nickname that has stuck from her college career is “Money Martin.” Although she’d been known as this for a few years at Iowa, the meaning behind it was perhaps best described more recently by Kelsey Plum: “When I say money, it’s not just scoring and stuff. She’s just in the right place at the right time, and she just makes people better.”


In college, Martin, along with the rest of the Iowa team, was frequently viewed as a supporting actor for the superstar that was Caitlin Clark, who broke just about every NCAA scoring record there is. With the two of them entering the WNBA draft in the same year, the vast majority of conversation centered around Clark. When Martin was brought up, it was projected that she would be selected in the third round or go undrafted.


But that’s not how it happened.


Traditionally, the league invites fifteen players to attend the draft in person, generally, players projected to be selected early in the draft. Kate Martin was, expectedly, not a member of this fifteen. However, the entire Iowa team had flown out to New York to watch the draft in person and see Clark, who Martin considers her best friend, be selected first overall. This led to Martin being in the building when her name was called in the second round, becoming the eighteenth pick overall, and going to the Las Vegas Aces.


Kate Martin with WNBA Commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, after being drafted by the Las Vegas Aces in the 2024 WNBA Draft. Photo by Nala Burton for WSX.

Although this was exciting, it’s historically difficult for draftees to make it onto the final WNBA roster. Teams often go into training camp with sixteen to twenty players, which is cut down to twelve or even eleven by the first day of the season.


The Aces began training with seventeen players, eight of which were returning after being rostered in the 2023 season, and one draftee selected earlier than Martin. And once again, seemingly against all odds, the Aces' final roster was announced on May 13th, and Martin was on it– the lowest pick to make a roster.


And to add the cherry on top to this underdog story, Martin has not been spending all her time on the bench, or finishing out easy games for Las Vegas. No– she’s averaging around twenty minutes per game, the highest of any non-starter for the Aces at this point in the season. In a recent ESPN ranking of the most efficient rookies from the 2024 class based on advanced statistics, Martin places third– notably three places above Clark.


So what has Kate Martin been doing to distinguish herself in this manner? The day the final Aces roster was announced, something that she said stood out.


On her mentality, she said: “Honestly, the advice that I've gotten from the vets, really, is just be yourself. You were drafted here for a reason and you don't have to be anybody else. You don't have to go out and take a million shots, and make every shot, you don't have to be perfect. Just be yourself and control the controllables– your attitude and effort every single day.”


Every time she has spoken to the media, this has been what she emphasizes about her game– putting in the effort, living in the moment– or, as she calls it, “being where her feet are”-- and being a good teammate. This is where the moniker of “the glue” comes in, and why it’s followed her to the pros. She wants to hold together her team, whether that’s through points, assists, or her quiet leadership. And although she won’t be the player the headlines are usually about, she’ll continue putting up solid numbers and helping keep the team tight.


Something that has spoken to her success more than anything else is what the established, successful women around her have had to say about her so early in the season. Former six-time All-Star and current head coach of the Aces, Becky Hammon, was asked about what has impressed her most about her rookie and said: 



“Her mind for the game. She’s a basketball player, and if you don’t know what that means, you should watch her… And when I go to any meeting, when we’re looking at potential talent, the number one thing I want is competitiveness. Because I’m not coaching effort. I can’t beg you for the effort. And she has that tryhard factor every time.” 


Especially in a season where much of the coverage of the WNBA has been overwhelmingly negative, the stories coming out of Las Vegas have been a breath of fresh air. Every few days, there’s a new video of Martin and her new team, whether she’s being celebrated for sinking a half-court shot at practice or blowing out candles on her birthday cake. For the first outfit walk before a preseason game, she even wore a head-to-toe University of South Carolina outfit that was handpicked by one of the GOATs, teammate A’ja Wilson.



Perhaps the reason it has been so refreshing to watch her is her obvious and abundant gratitude for the position that she has surprisingly found herself in. Three months ago, in one of her final interviews with Iowa, she said “Pretty soon, I'm not gonna be in these moments. I'm gonna be just a regular old Joe Schmo. So, whatever -- I'm enjoying it.”


If any one thing distinguishes her, it’s this humility. And something she’s said very recently strikes a stark contrast to that, now that she’s with a championship team, living her dream. 


On May 24, she said: “I feel really grateful to be able to learn from some of the best players in the world and the best coach in the world. And the city is really cool in itself, it’s beautiful here, it’s warm weather. It's just beautiful! It’s something, when I walk outside every single day, and I see beautiful mountains, its warm weather, and I’m driving to practice, you know, ‘work,’ technically. I feel like the luckiest person in the world.” 



But it’s clearly not all been luck for Money Martin.


She said it best herself– “I wasn't always the star player, but here I am in the WNBA! Good things happen when you're a good person, so work really hard and continue to be yourself.”

One concept that Martin repeatedly mentions in interviews is this idea of being a “good person,” and that seems to be a reason she is so universally loved. It’s hard not to root for an underdog story, especially one who receives nothing but praise from everyone in her orbit on both a professional and personal level. And when the underdog in question is always smiling, producing on the floor, and glad to accept a role as a teammate and supporter over being in the spotlight? That’s money.

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