Playing his first game at the Saint Mary’s University Homburg Centre this season created a strange mix of emotions for Brent Martindale. He was back in his old home gym, but this time wearing a different uniform.
“It was really weird, I gotta be honest,” said Martindale, a forward on the Dalhousie University Tigers men’s basketball team. Although it’s his first year donning a Tigers jersey, he’s no stranger to the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) league; he played for the Saint Mary’s Huskies program for four years before this.
Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in criminology from SMU, Martindale then decided to come to Dal and study health promotion, one of the master’s programs offered.
In their third game of the regular season, the Tigers visited the Huskies at the Homburg Centre on Nov. 9. The teams had played each other on Dal’s home court a few days before, but this was the first time Martindale had faced his former team in more familiar surroundings.
“I didn’t really know how to prepare for it because it’s the building that I know super well, the gym that I know super well, so it felt like a long-lost home,” he said.
The AUS basketball season has a quick turnaround. In 2018-2019, the Huskies’ season ended in mid-March with an appearance at the U Sports Final 8 national championship, making it seven months, almost to the day, since Martindale had played a game as a Husky. The absence felt longer than that, he said, making his return more charged with emotion.
“It was crazy. I choked up and it was a different feeling as simple of being on the other side — sitting on a different bench, warming up on a different hoop, having a different locker room, wearing a different jersey,” said Martindale. “It was something that I was consciously thinking about with everything leading up to it and when I went out there, it was a lot of emotion.”
Although he is competitive and wants the Tigers to be successful, Martindale said there is still some loyalty he holds for his former team.
“I always wanted SMU to be the best, but now, I want them to be the best except when they face us,” said Martindale.
Joining a new team meant Martindale had to adjust to a new coaching system.
At SMU, Jonah Taussig is in his seventh year as head coach. A former player, he won the AUS basketball rookie of the year in 1997 and helped lead the Huskies to a national title in 1999.
Tigers head coach Rick Plato is also a Saint Mary’s alum; he played for their basketball team from 1976-1981. In his seventh year at Dal, he coached the Mount Saint University Mystics for over 20 years before that.
While both Taussig and Plato have had successful playing and coaching careers, they have different approaches to the game.
Plato is more tough, using a lot of emphasis in yelling from the sidelines, whereas Taussig, being younger, has more of a connection to his players, said Martindale.
As a fifth-year player, Martindale’s role on the Tigers is bring leadership and experience to the roster. Especially effective as a physical presence in the low post, he provides depth to that position as second-year Sam Wade and first-years Kendall Saunders and Ben Shoveller continue to develop.
Last season, the Tigers were AUS champions and had a fourth place finish at the U Sports Final 8 tournament, with a loss in the bronze medal game against the Ryerson University Rams. With most of the Tigers’ roster returning this year, they’re off to a strong start with five wins to start the regular season and a second place national ranking behind only the Carleton University Ravens.
Dal wasn’t the only team in consideration when Martindale was looking at his options after graduation. He was interested in law school, and the University of New Brunswick Reds asked him to play for their team as he studied.
He wasn’t sure if he would continue to play basketball at the varsity level, but everything fell in place after talking with both UNB and Dal.
“I was just lucky enough to find someone at a school, at a program who was willing to take a chance on me in my last year and I’m grateful for that,” said Martindale.
After his master’s degree, he wants to pursue a career in law.