Josh Marte is the easily the smallest player on his CP25 Team Parsons 16u Gauntlet basketball squad, and by more a foot when compared with his tallest teammates.
That made it not so easy for Osceola High School’s state championship point guard when CP25 ran up against a physically imposing D.C. Blue Devils travel team on Saturday in the Orlando Hoops Festival at The First Academy.
But when CP25, sponsored by Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons, found itself being outhustled and outmuscled it was Marte – all 5-foot-7 or so of him – who played the tough guy role.
“It’s a game of runs. We’re good. Let’s go,” Marte could be heard saying as he locked eyes with taller teammates as CP25 came out of a first half timeout trailing 31-19. Then he let his energetic play do some talking.
Marte, a sophomore standout for Osceola’s title team last season, caused some havoc with defensive pressure and swished a 3-point shot to spark a rally. He tied up a D.C. guard for a held ball, and flicked a transition pass to Osceola High teammate Isaiah Palmero, who dunked as part of a run that saw Team Parsons take a shortlived 38-37 lead.
The comeback stalled and CP25 succumbed in a 62-55 loss, but Marte never surrendered.
“Everybody we put him up against, he wins,” said Osceola coach Nate Alexander, who also coached for CP25 until sitting out this spring and summer to game plan for his recent wedding. “He’s even better when he goes up against another point guard that’s higher rated than he is.”
That’s a long list at this point, because Marte is so short.
Josh Marte, right, helped CP25 Team Parsons 16U Gauntlet come back from a big early deficit in a loss against the D.C. Blue Devils at the Orlando Hoops Festival. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/Orlando Sentinel correspondent)
CP25 generously listed him at 5-9, though he’s probably two or three inches shorter than that. That has limited the recruiting attention Marte gets while teammates like Palermo and coveted 6-9 Osceola and CP25 center Omar Payne bask in scholarship offers.
“It gets me motivation,” Marte said between playing consecutive games on Saturday. “I’m learning patience. I just play as hard as I can to show them I’m supposed to be one of those prospects they want.”
Marte wants the college coaches, who are out in force this month for NCAA “live” evaluation periods, to look past his stature and see his impressive skill set. He can handle the ball, drain shots from deep and hold his own on defense thanks to quickness.
He also wants to grow to at least 6-feet, which is what he said all three of his older brothers did when they finally hit a growth spurt.
“If he gets to 6-feet, he’ll really be something,” Alexander said.
Within minutes of finishing play against the Blue Devils, Marte was back in a layup line to join the Team Parsons 17U Gauntlet team, which was shorthanded and called Marte, Palermo and Payne up to play a game against rising seniors.
The Festival concludes today with games from 9:30 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. at TFA. Team Parsons 2019 Gauntlet plays its final game at 1:10 vs. Team Breakdown Black, which has Orlando Christian Prep newcomer Kai Jones, a 6-8 rising junior from the Bahamas.
Most of the 17U teams are taking a break on Sunday before traveling for next week’s final live period.
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