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UCLA

A Tale of Two Bruins

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By Benjamin Gleisser

Published Apr 22, 2008 8:00 AM


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Bruin Alumni Jason Kapono '03, left, and Darrick Martin '92, right, play for the Toronto Raptors. Copyright © Photos courtesy of Toronto Raptors


Behind closed doors — the locker room doors that are closed to the media, that is — Toronto Raptors Darrick Martin '92 and Jason Kapono '03 are good friends. They cheered UCLA's march into the Final Four this year, and playfully razzed their teammates as those players' alma maters fell off the brackets. But in front of the media, Martin and Kapono are as different as Felix Unger and Oscar Madison.

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When reporters swarm onto NBA squad's practice court as the Raptors prepare for their second straight appearance in the playoffs, Kapono turns his back to the cameras and focuses on his specialty — sinking nothing-but-net three pointers from just beyond the arc. Kapono, 27, ranks No. 1 in the NBA in three-point field-goal percentage (48.3 percent), and won his second straight three-point shooting title at the 2008 NBA All-Star game. But mum's the word for Kapono.

"He really could care less about any publicity," says Jim LaBumbard, Raptors director of media relations. In fact, Kapono gave his three-point championship trophy to LaBumbard after doing his required press availability, then quickly left the All-Star arena. The trophy is now sitting in the Raptors' equipment room, waiting for Kapono to claim it.

Martin, on the other hand, strolls over to reporters with an easy smile and happily faces a dozen digital recorders shoved at his face. At 37, he is the oldest player on the team, respected for his no-nonsense analysis and appreciated for good quotes.

At Westwood, Martin was part of an Elite Eight squad during the 1992 campaign. His time at UCLA "taught me how to win and how to play basketball. It was the best place to learn self-discipline." And for the past nine years, he's given back some of those lessons at the Darrick Martin Youth Basketball Camp for underprivileged youth in Compton, California.

"I'm a role model," he explains. "I'm in the position to touch people's lives. When kids come up to me later and say, 'Thank you for letting me come to your camp, because it got me back on the right path,' — well, it just makes me shake, knowing I've had that kind of an impact on a kid's life."

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He plays a similar role with the Raptors. "It's like I've got 14 little brothers here," Martin says with a grin. And Jason Kapono?

"Yes, we've got a natural bond, going to the same school and everything," says Martin, adding "He's a good guy, but you better ask him."

Easier said than done.

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