Lyndhurst’s Martin presented with Observer Female Athlete of Year, is 4th Golden Bear girl to receive honor

There was always a connection between Carley Martin and Camila Alonso, going back to the days when Martin was just becoming a teenager and Alonso was breaking all kinds of scoring records at Lyndhurst High School.

You see, Martin’s father, Chuck, the former boys’ basketball coach at Lyndhurst, used to run a basketball camp that Alonso regularly attended.

That was all that young Carley needed as an inspiration to attend her father’s camp.

You see, young Carley used to look up to Alonso back then some eight years ago.

“Camila was my absolute idol growing up,” Martin said in an interview last March. “I remember her teaching me how to do drop steps and up-and-unders. I wanted to do whatever she did. I was absolutely obsessed with her. I wanted her fame and I wanted her glory.”

There was another aspect to Alonso’s game that intrigued Martin. Alonso was the last Lyndhurst girl to reach the prestigious 1,000-point plateau.

That is, before Martin achieved the goal that she wanted to have since third grade.

Four years ago, when Martin was still in grade school, she was approached by some of the local private high schools to see if Carley would attend there. No chance.

Former Female Athletes of the Year

2004-2005 Janine Davis, Queen of Peace

2005-2006 Kelly Rauco, Nutley

2006-2007 Courtney Keegan, Queen of Peace

2007-2008 Allyson Dyl, Kearny

2008-2009 Cassie Indri, Lyndhurst

2009-2010 Tara Fisher, North Arlington

2010-2011 Janitza Aquino, Kearny

2011-2012 Stefanie Gomes, Kearny

2012-2013 Camila Alonso, Lyndhurst

2013-2014 Grace Montgomery, Nutley and Nicole Kelly, Kearny

2014-2015 Carly Anderson, Nutley

2015-2016 Amber Crispin, Kearny

2016-2017 Lily Durning, Kearny

2017-2018 Meagan McClelland, Kearny

2018-2019 Giulia Pezzolla, Lyndhurst

2019-2020 Samantha Osorio, Kearny

2020-2021 Carley Martin, Lyndhurst

“I wanted to play where my father once coached,” Martin said. “I remember going to practices with him when I was a little girl. I was the one who had the ball in my hands all the time. I always said that I wanted to be in Lyndhurst.”

Martin wanted to do what her idol did in high school.

Last week, Martin added another item in her attempts to be like Camila Alonso.

Martin picked up The Observer Female Athlete of the Year award, becoming only the fourth Lyndhurst High product to receive the year-end honor, and Martin became the first basketball player to receive the honor since Alonso received it in 2013.

The other Golden Bears to receive the year-end honor from The Observer are Cassie Indri in 2008-2009 and Giulia Pezzolla, who won the award in 2018-2019.

Martin, who was also a fine softball player to go along with her historic basketball skills, received her award last week from this sports writer with her parents, coaches and school officials present.

“This means everything to me,” Martin said. “It’s the best news I’ve received all year. To get recognized this way it’s amazing. I honestly didn’t think I had a chance. I had no idea what the criteria was and should I be in the running.”

The Observer’s Athlete of the Year (the male honoree will be featured next week) is given to the female and male athletes who perform their best in more than one varsity sport and conduct themselves in a professional manner.

Martin’s first love was of course basketball, especially having a coach for a father.

“Dad is definitely the one who pushed me to this,” Martin said of her father. “All of my accomplishments and honors should go to him. I couldn’t be half as accomplished as I am without him. People would argue with me because Dad was so hard on me. But now I appreciate all he did. I never would have been the sixth Lyndhurst girl to get to 1,000 points or the fourth Lyndhurst girl to receive this award.”

Martin said that her love of basketball just grew and grew from the time she was four years old.

“I think I was always his little boy at heart,” Martin said. “We spent so much time shooting and working on things. I really owe it all to him.”

Martin averaged 19.3 points this season for the Golden Bears, who went 9-6 in the truncated schedule caused by the pandemic.

“She progressed tremendously,” said Lyndhurst head girls’ basketball coach Perrin Mosca. “She was a huge focus for our offense, but she handled it well. Everything we did, we ran through her. We wanted her to do things we really didn’t need her to do. But she handled everything.”

She scored her 1,000th point on Senior Day – with just two games remaining in the season.

Martin then joined the softball team this season, after sitting out the previous two campaigns.

“I used to play softball a lot,” said Martin, who wrote a poem in tribute to her former pitching coach Jim MacDonald, after “Coach Mac” passed away suddenly seven years ago. It was that poem and tribute to Coach Mac that enabled Martin to first gain recognition in The Observer.

“All my friends played softball,” Martin said. “My best friends are Gianna Alberti and Alexa Borino and they encouraged me to play. I figured I could help them out.”

Martin became the starting right fielder and had 18 RBI batting most of the season in the No. 9 position in the lineup.

The Golden Bears won the Liberty Division of the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference championship and advanced all the way to the North Jersey Section 2, Group II semifinals, posting a 19-7 record.

“She was a great addition,” said Lyndhurst head softball coach Sara Fusco. “She’s a lefty and we had a position in right field open. She handled that well. Carley was also 100 percent a leader on the team as a senior. That was super important

Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”