Every summer LaRue Martin watches young athletes make the jump from high school to the NBA and can only shake his head. "I wish they would stop drafting these kids," says Martin, who was the No. 1 pick in the 1972 draft, by the Portland Trail Blazers, after a stellar career at Loyola ( Chicago). "They can't possibly understand the value of going to college and getting that degree."
Martin certainly does. After averaging 18.2 points and 15.9 rebounds as a 6'11" center in college—and being drafted ahead of such future NBA standouts as Bob McAdoo and Paul Westphal—he scored only 5.3 points per game in four seasons as a pro and then called it a career. "I'd had enough," says Martin, 54. "I wanted to try something else."
Cut by the Seattle SuperSonics in 1976, Martin, who had graduated with a B.A. in sociology, went to work in Nike's marketing department. In '87 he moved to the United Parcel Service, first as a driver, then getting promoted to customer-service representative before eventually taking his present assignment as a community-services manager in Chicago.
For years Martin avoided drawing attention to his basketball days, but now he recalls those experiences while promoting UPS at fund-raisers. "When I was younger, all the attention probably bothered me more than it does now," says Martin. And his basketball career? "It still bothers me that [I was considered a bust]," he says. "But it was one of those things, and I don't have any regrets."