LAS VEGAS — It’s understandable that Jaylen Martin was nervous at the start of NBA Summer League.
Jaylen Martin played in the last organized basketball game against high schoolers.
Now the former Overtime Elite standout was facing the big guys, wearing a Knicks jersey and hoping to impress his new team.
It didn’t start well, but the 6-foot-6 winger made an impact by the end of the game.
The Tallahassee, Florida native nearly helped the Knicks overcome a 16-point lead in the second half of a 110-101 loss to the 76ers at Cox Pavilion on Saturday night.
“I feel like as the game went on, I loosened up and was able to play my game,” Martin said after scoring 12 points on 3-for-8 shooting and adding two rebounds. “Just be comfortable on the court.”
The 19-year-old Martin is one of the more intriguing names on the Knicks’ roster this summer, which may not include a player who will make the rotation once the 2023-24 regular season begins.
After he went undrafted, the Knicks signed Martin to a two-way contract, meaning he would split the following season between the NBA team and their G-League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks.
On Saturday, Martin actually started his game late.
He was aggressive and made quick decisions, getting to the free-throw line seven times. On one play in particular, he hit a big slam with his right hand that drew sighs and sighs from the crowd.
“He did some good things and some things he needs to work on,” Knicks summer league coach Dice Yoshimoto said. “Anyone coming into this league from college or OTE has to learn to be professional. Since the draft, he has done so. He stays in the gym all day. He’s a gym rat. He wants to learn. He wants to be better. The sky is the limit for him.”
Martin said: “I just see it as a blessing, to be able to compete at the highest level, to take it day by day. Grateful for this opportunity.”
One major advantage Martin has is a strong support system, which includes former Knicks point guard Charlie Ward. Martin played for Ward at Florida High for three seasons, and the two remained close. Ward spoke with senior Knicks executives about Martin’s approach to the draft and has done his best to prepare his former player for the next level.
“He is a great role model. We talk day-to-day, explain how the league works and what to expect,” Martin said. “Don’t go too low or too high. He’s been there, exactly where I want to be. It’s great to learn from him.”
Daquan Jeffries was the Knicks’ best player before he injured his right hip at the end of the third quarter and did not return.
He finished with a team-high 20 points and added four rebounds and two blocks in 21 minutes. The Knicks listed him day-to-day.
Charlie Brown Jr., a former St. Starr Joseph, who played for the Delaware Blue Coats (affiliate of the 76ers) in the G-League last season, added 17 points and six rebounds. Trevor Keals, the Knicks’ only draft pick in the last two years, was limited to two points on 1-for-6 shooting in only 14 minutes.
Race Thompson (sore right knee), an undrafted free agent signee from Indiana, did not travel and will not play for the Knicks this summer. … Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, center Isaiah Hartenstein and officials William Wesley, Gerson Rosas and Brock Eller were in attendance.