Edwardsville grad working for roster spot with Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS – Kate Martin knew something was up when she was asked to move to an aisle seat during the WNBA Draft on April 15.

There to support college teammate Caitlin Clark, Martin and her Iowa teammates were moved closer to the stage as the draft progressed inside the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She was then asked to move from the middle of her row to the aisle.

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When the cameras returned to Martin with the Las Vegas Aces were on the clock with the 18th overall pick in the second, the 2018 Edwardsville High School graduate and former Iowa Hawkeye knew a dream was about to become a reality.

“I heard my name called and it was so many emotions. It was a lot of happiness. I was feeling very grateful,” Martin said. “To walk across the stage, it was a dream come true.”

WNBA's Aces get 'best effort every single day' from Martin

Martin became the first former Edwardsville Tiger to be selected in the WNBA Draft. She was the 10th Edwardsville alum since 2000 to be selected in a major American sports draft.

But that walk across the stage at the WNBA Draft for Martin was just the start to a long journey to potentially making the Aces. With 12 WNBA teams and rosters capped at 12 players per team, only 144 players will make it into the league.

WNBA training camps opened April 28 with the Aces starting with 17 players. The final roster must be down to the minimum of 11 or maximum of 12 by May 13.

Already, the Aces have said goodbye to three players with Candace Parker retiring on April 28 and Brea Beal and Morgan Jones being waived on May 2. Beal and Martin have some history together, with Martin’s Edwardsville Tigers beating Beal’s Rock Island Rocks in three straight sectional championship games in high school before Martin’s Hawkeyes beat Beal’s South Carolina Gamecocks in the 2023 NCAA Final Four.

Las Vegas opens the season at home against the Phoenix Mercury on May 14.

The two-time defending WNBA champions have a deep and loaded roster that includes Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, Chelsea Gray and A’ja Wilson. Gray was the WNBA Finals MVP in 2022 and Wilson won the award in 2023 after being named the league’s MVP in 2022.

“It’s hard not to get starstruck every day when I walk into the facility,” Martin said during the team’s media day. “It’s been cool to be able to watch them work with their warm-up routines and everything they do to work like a pro. These women are amazing and they are very good at their jobs.”

It was less than two months ago that Martin finished her career at Iowa with 1,299 points, 756 rebounds and 473 assists, 148 steals and 70 blocks in 163 games. She is the only player in program history with at least 900 points, 500 rebounds, 400 assists, 120 steals and 60 blocks.

Now, Martin is taking on the challenge of making the Aces. What has been the biggest adjustment to the pro game?

“The speed, physicality and terminology,” Martin answered during media day. “Every single level of basketball you can get to is going to be more difficult.”

Martin has taken the challenge head-on.

“I’ve been trying to take it day by day,” Martin said in an interview with Will Despart with The Sporting Tribune. “Some days I feel I do really good and some days I may not be hitting my shots. No matter what, I’m trying to make sure my 110 percent effort is there and I’m going hard every single practice, every single time I’m out on the court.”

A week into training camp, Martin has been picking up on the Aces system led by coach Becky Hammon. Martin said if she has any questions about particular play or set, the veterans have been very willing to help.

“Any questions I ask, they have been very welcoming and answer them with open arms. I’ve been really lucky with that. They’ve been doing that with every single rookie,” Martin said in an interview with Will Despart. “(The veterans) have been in the league for a long time – not calling them old or anything – and anything I can learn from them and soak up and get from them, I’m going to do that.”

Martin said her approach in training camp has been to keep it simple. She’s not trying to do too much.

“I’m just here being myself. I don’t need to be anyone else. I don’t need to be the star player,” Martin said to Despart. “You see the talent that the Aces have, I know my role would be a role player if I would fortunately make the team. I’ve been in that position before. I know how to be a role player and support stars. I’ve done that for quite a few years.”

Martin played alongside Clark the last four seasons at Iowa. The two started their final 139 games together and helped the Hawkeyes to back-to-back NCAA Tournament runner-up finishes.

Regardless of what Martin’s fate turns out to be in Vegas, the opportunity over the last month will likely play major dividends in her future. Martin has openly spoken about her desire to one day coach. After playing for Lori Blade at EHS and Lisa Bluder at Iowa, she is now getting the chance to play for another legendary coach in Hammon.

Following a 16-year playing career in the WNBA, Hammon was an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs from 2014-2022 before taking over the Aces.

“(Hammon) has been phenomenal. It is really cool to listen to her and see how she views the game. She has amazing experience. It’s really cool to be able to learn from her and broaden my knowledge. I’m always trying to get better and smarter,” Martin said to Despart.

Martin, though, is hoping that her own coaching career starts later rather than sooner.

“I’m giving my best effort every single day to give myself the best opportunity to make the team,” Martin said to Despart.

That best effort is the relentless work ethic that led to her nickname “The Glue” at Iowa.

“My intention is to come in and give 110 percent every day, not take a rep off and work really hard and be a good teammate,” Martin said during media day. “That’s what I’m doing every single day.”