On a night Julia Martinez set the program record for career assists, it wasn’t a pass that caught the attention of Loyola head coach Jeremy Schoenecker.

What impressed Schoenecker during the 54-29 win over De La Salle at home Tuesday was when the junior point guard chased down a player the full length of the court, knocked the ball loose and collected it before stepping out of bounds. Although the sequence had no impact on the outcome, it summed up who Martinez is as a basketball player.

“She doesn’t take nights off or plays off,” he said. “She plays the game the right way.”

With eight assists Tuesday, Martinez ran her career total to 510, surpassing 1999 Loyola graduate Laura Sobieszczyk for most in program history. Sobieszczyk, who won Class AA state titles in 1997 and 1998 and is in Loyola’s Hall of Fame, finished with 506. Martinez also owns the record for most assists in the single season with 196.

A three-year starter, Martinez averages 8.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 3.0 steals this season. But she isn’t consumed by stats or records.

“I am not counting how many points or assists or rebounds or whatever else I have when I’m out there,” she said. “I play to win, and I will do whatever it takes.”

Schoenecker said the value Martinez brings to the Ramblers goes beyond numbers, and that’s a reason why they are 20-5 this season and 63-24 since she’s been at Loyola.

“She has an inner drive not many players possess,” he said. “She does so many things people might take for granted, like her ability to see the floor, run the offense, read the defense. She has the qualities you want in a point guard and in a basketball player.”

Martinez graduated from Chicago’s St. Bartholomew and lives in the city’s Irving Park neighborhood. Her older sisters — Cecily and Rosalynn Martinez — went to St. Bartholomew and Loyola, where they played sports.

Unlike other Chicago Catholic grammar schools — such as Queen of All Saints, St. Mary of the Woods, St. Juliana — St. Bartholomew doesn’t send a lot of students to Loyola. In fact, Schoenecker said Julia is the first player from the school he’s coached in his 10 seasons with the Ramblers.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” she said. “There is some pride that comes with being the only one from there.”

Rudy Martinez, Julia’s father, often took her to watch her older sisters play basketball at St. Bartholomew. Even before Julia entered grammar school, he said he noticed her natural athleticism and competitiveness.

“She constantly bugged us about wanting to play,” said Rudy, a graduate of St. Bartholomew and Gordon Tech, now DePaul Prep.

Once she enrolled at St. Bartholomew, Julia immediately played with girls older than her. What’s more, Rudy said she “tore it up” right away.

“We were always trying to find teams for her to play on that were competitive,” he said.

According to Rudy, Julia was a talented ball-handler and a player who enjoyed running the offense.

“From a young age, she loved passing the ball,” he said. “A big thing for her has always been getting everybody to score.”

Because of her experience playing against older girls, Julia said she felt comfortable when Schoenecker named her a starter as a freshman.

“I came in confident,” she said. “I wasn’t nervous at all. It was normal to me.”

A Division I recruit since her sophomore season, Julia has 12 scholarship offers and continues to draw interest from colleges around the country, Rudy said. Last weekend, she took an unofficial visit to Boston College, and she plans to take a trip to Saint Louis University this weekend. Despite all of the attention, Julia is grounded, according to Schoenecker.

“She’s willing to keep learning,” he said. “She’s very coachable.”

For all of her accomplishments on the court, Julia said she wants to be known for more than her athletic ability. She’s an A student and is involved in leadership and volunteer clubs at Loyola, including LA Way and Arrupe.

“It’s important to me to be known as a good person first,” she said. “I want to leave Loyola as someone who made an impact on the entire school community.”

Rudy said he’s impressed by the way Julia has balanced academics, athletics and extracurricular activities. According to him, one of her best qualities is her sense of humor. Rudy revealed something Schoenecker once told him about Julia that made him proud.

“He said Julia is a great basketball player, but that’s not the best part about her,” Rudy said. “Jermey said his daughter [Carson Schoenecker] wants to be like Julia when she grows up. That made me tear up.”

Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola