RENO — During their junior year of high school, Cody and Caleb Martin did something unusual for star basketball prospects. They got jobs at Wal-Mart. It definitely put a crimp in their social lives, as they’d spend all week practicing with their team and then on weekends put on blue vests to collect shopping carts from the parking lot. They would have rather been just about anywhere else.


Yet it only seemed fair to them that they make a little money for their gas, clothes and food. By then, they had begun to realize the sacrifices their mother had made in raising three boys alone, sometimes going hungry at night so her sons could eat. They wanted to help out in whatever small way they could. “I know it might sound cliché and corny,” Cody says, “but she’s our hero.”

Perseverance and love from their mom, Jenny Bennett, is a main reason why the 6-foot-7 twins have come this far. The redshirt juniors helped lead Nevada to a Mountain West Conference regular-season championship and a Top 25 ranking. Caleb is the high-octane scorer hobbling through a foot injury, while Cody is the do-everything glue guy who has assumed point guard duties late in the year. Their mother provides motivation for them one day to make the NBA, so they can pay her back in even bigger ways. And the toughness she instilled in them ensures that no one will want to face the Wolf Pack and its twin engines this postseason.

“Everything they do every single day exemplifies how they were raised,” says teammate Hallice Cooke.


Bennett left her parents’ house at age 15, tired of arguing about her choices. She gave birth to her first child, Raheem, at 16. Two and a half years later, the twins arrived. The boys’ father skipped out, leaving her to figure out how to care for them by herself.

The family bounced between trailer homes and sketchy apartments in and around Mocksville, N.C., a rural town of about 5,000 some 30 miles southwest of Winston-Salem. Bennett worked three jobs, scanning groceries at Food Lion, checking people in at a gym and providing care for the elderly. Several nights, she didn’t eat dinner, making sure the boys filled their stomachs instead. “She would act like she wasn’t hungry,” Cody says. “Some days we’d come home and she’d be crying, and we didn’t know why.”


She also faced racism, as a white mother with interracial children in the South. Bennett remembers walking with Raheem when he was an infant; a pickup truck tried to run them off the road. One morning she awoke to a burning cross in her front yard. She never complained in front of her sons, though, and the boys didn’t know any better. For a while they lived in a two-bedroom apartment with only one mattress for the kids. The three of them would rotate who got to sleep on it each night, the other two taking turns on the floor. When they moved into a three-bedroom double-wide , Raheem, Caleb and Cody pushed their mattresses together and slept in a sprawling huddle of arms and legs. “It didn’t make a difference to us,” Raheem says. “We just liked being around each other.”

The worst part of the mobile home? The insects that infested it. Cody was alarmed from sleep one night by an ant biting his eardrum. But at least the trailer park had room for the boys to roam. The apartments brought more danger. Sometimes when they’d head toward the stairwell to their apartment, they’d see a man sitting with a gun in his lap. They’d pretend to go somewhere else until he left. They took out the trash in pairs, hiding behind a cement column if they saw a car coming down the street with its lights off. The twins would join pickup games at a court near the complex, but the guys there bet money on the games — and they didn’t take losing well. They might come find you later if they lost. Cody and Caleb learned to wait until those men finished playing before they’d venture onto the court.

The family didn’t have much, but they had each other. Bennett did everything she could to keep the boys out of trouble. “They’d probably say I was mean,” she says. “I felt I had to be a little more stern than maybe a mother would normally be. I needed them to stay focused and stay busy.” Luckily, she had an ally in that battle: sports.

The twins played football, baseball and basketball year-round. When they weren’t involved in an organized sport, they’d make up their own games outside. They created a football-basketball hybrid where full-on tackling was not only allowed but highly encouraged. Already over six feet tall in middle school, the twins competed against boys two grades older. “They played defense really hard and rebounded at an early age,” Raheem says. “I could tell they were a little different than most kids.”

After three seasons at Davie County High School, they were invited to join the powerhouse prep program Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. They helped Oak Hill finish second in the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals, where they lost to a Montverde Academy team that featured Ben Simmons, D’Angelo Russell and current Nevada teammate Jordan Caroline. Cody, who played guard for the first time at Oak Hill, was named team MVP that year. The exposure helped both become top 100 recruits.


They started their college careers at N.C. State, contributing to a Sweet 16 run as freshmen and playing big minutes as sophomores. But they bristled at the heavily structured offensive style employed by then coach Mark Gottfried and decided to transfer. “We felt like we needed to go somewhere where we could showcase our talent,” Caleb says. “Somewhere we could play more freely for our last two years.”

Enter Nevada.


When he was hired in March 2015, Eric Musselman had a vision for the Wolf Pack program, one sharpened by his extensive career coaching in the NBA and the D-League. He wanted a roster full of interchangeable 6-foot-6 types who could switch everything on defense and create mismatches. He and his staff recruited the Martin twins hard after they left N.C. State. Musselman showed them analytics and a detailed plan for how their games would soar in his system. “They were a perfect fit,” Musselman says. “We told them how badly we wanted both of them, not just one or the other. We told them they were both going to have star roles.”

It wasn’t just talk. Caleb is the third-leading scorer in the Mountain West, averaging 19.5 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 43 percent on 3s. He can beat you off the bounce or with a step-back jumper, and he’s always attacking. “He’s a tenacious scorer,” Cooke says. “I tell him all the time he reminds me of Jamal Crawford.” Wolf Pack fans thought Caleb’s season (and by proxy, their own) might be over on Feb. 3, when he suffered a Lisfranc sprain in his left foot late in a game at Colorado State. The original diagnosis called for Caleb to be out four to six weeks. He returned a week later after missing only one game, a home loss to UNLV. “I might have rushed it, for sure,” he says, but he knew his team needed him. Caleb doesn’t practice now, and he wears a walking boot when he’s not playing. When he’s on the bench during games, he’ll take off his shoe so he can rub and stretch the foot.

A different injury has altered Cody’s season. He’s never been an aggressive scorer like his brother, but he filled in all the other gaps. Cody is the team’s best defender, capable of guarding every position on the floor. He leads the Wolf Pack in steals and blocks and is second in rebounds — “the most versatile college player I’ve ever been around,” says the 53-year-old Musselman. Nevada needed that flexibility when starting point guard Lindsey Drew ruptured his Achilles’ in a Valentine’s Day win at Boise State. Musselman handed Cody the reins to the offense. In the five games since, Cody is averaging 17.6 points, seven assists and 8.6 rebounds while shooting 55 percent from the field. He nearly had a triple-double in the home finale against Colorado State, going for 17 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds. “He’s so tall that he can see over the defense and find people for quality shots,” Wolf Pack senior guard Kendall Stephens says. “And if everyone else is guarded, he can make a play for himself. That’s a luxury to have at point guard.”



Cody was born one minute before Caleb. People are stunned to learn that they are fraternal twins, not identical, a revelation that leads strangers to fruitlessly argue the point. They hated it when their mom would dress them alike as kids. But now they wear the same braided hairstyle and sport the same facial hair, making it difficult to tell them apart (Cody has a small birthmark under his eye; Caleb wears dark earrings, while Cody goes for lighter ones). “I’m like, y’all wouldn’t be able to tell us apart anyway if I had an Afro and he had a fade,” Cody says.

Musselman and their teammates can now recognize who’s who by their mannerisms. Caleb is more outgoing, quicker with a smile. Cody is a little quieter, more serious. “Caleb constantly wants to change our zone offense mid-game,” Musselman says. “Cody tells him to shut up and listen to Coach.”

Like most twins, they share an inseparable bond. The longest they’ve been apart was a few days, when Caleb stole away to the beach with his girlfriend. They’re housemates. They share almost all the same classes. They eat lunch together every day. “We’ll be walking across campus and see something, and we’ll both think the exact same thing and start laughing without even saying anything,” Caleb says. “Obviously, sometimes he gets on my nerves and vice versa, but for the most part, we enjoy each other’s company.”

You do not want to play the twins in two-on-two. Teammates found this out the hard way during their redshirt transfer year. Cody and Caleb can read each other’s eyes and know exactly where the other is going. On game point, Caleb might yell his brother’s name and head toward the perimeter, a secret signal that he’s about to roll to the basket for an easy backdoor layup.

They’re so close that Caleb suggests they might be roommates again whenever their pro careers are finished.

“I don’t know about that,” Cody interjects.

“Yeah, it’ll be like [the movie] Step Brothers,” Caleb cracks.


Their closeness helped them get through those rough early years. Moving three time zones away from their mom was the toughest part of transferring to Nevada. She got to see them play in Reno for the first time around New Year’s, when she attended the New Mexico and Wyoming games. The twins loved hearing their hero yell and scream for them from the stands the way she used to in their high school games and at N.C. State. Bennett is also planning to attend this week’s Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas.

The distance doesn’t get easier, but the twins recall what their mother used to always say when they were little: Struggle now to live better later. Raheem graduated from Greensboro (N.C.) College, where he played basketball for four years and is now an assistant coach. Caleb and Cody are set to earn their degrees this spring. Nevada’s graduation ceremony happens to fall on Bennett’s birthday.

The struggle was real, all right, but one that was well worth it.

“When I sit back and think about all the hard times we had, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Bennett says. “Because when things do change and turn around a little bit, it makes you really appreciate what you have.”

(Top photo of Caleb and Cody Martin by Gregory Bull/AP)

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