'Fighter of lions' leads the pack for JW North

The best first name in high school basketball belongs to Dikymbe Martin of Riverside JW North.

"It means fighter of lions," Martin said.


It's an appropriate name for a 6-foot-1 junior point guard known for his competitiveness, coolness under pressure and knack for making shots when his team needs them most.

One of the best parts of Martin's mental makeup is his ability to focus and leave the drama of tense moments and crazy crowd reactions for others to experience.

"The only thing that matters is inside the lines," he said. "That's what I think of when I'm out there."

With the skill to connect from the three-point range and make drives to the basket to create shots for teammates, Martin possesses the key qualities to be a top point guard. He's averaging 19.8 points and 7.2 assists for the 18-1 Huskies.

He helped lead North to a 16-0 start until an overtime loss to San Diego Morse on Jan. 19, in which Martin scored 33 points, including a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left in regulation to give the Huskies a three-point lead. A three-pointer by Morse with three seconds left tied the game and sent it into overtime.

But it was afterward that Martin's maturity came through. Despite North dropping its first and only game, there was Martin, who just turned 17, looking for the positives and preparing for the future. He viewed the defeat as a learning experience that would make his team stronger for the playoffs.

"You see what you get," Coach Mike Bartee said. "He's a basketball junkie. He just finished practice, and he'll be practicing another hour. He was there an hour before practice. He goes to one of the local parks and shoots every day except for game day."

Martin's father, Jalani, and mother, Angela, take credit for his first name. Their older children, Malik and Akilah, played high school basketball at North and attend UCLA and UC Riverside, respectively. Akilah starts for the women's team.

Dikymbe got his name because his father said, "My wife was pregnant and for some reason, he was the toughest one. He gave her the most grief."

Said Martin: "It's a pretty cool name."

Dikymbe comes from the Bantu people of Africa. Father and son give a slightly different interpretation of the name. It means "one who hunts alone, a special hunter," Jalani said.

Martin has scholarship offers from UC Riverside, Cal State Fullerton, Charlotte and New Mexico State — with more likely to come in, because he knows how to fit in on and off the court.

Asked what he likes about basketball, Martin said, "Being on a team and knowing everyone has your back and being brothers for life."

Bartee is excited that Martin will be around for the rest of this season and next.


"He's really driven," Bartee said.

Just like the name implies.

Twitter: @LATSondheimer