Of the two major Iowa women’s basketball news items that occurred Monday, Lisa Bluder announcing her retirement after back-to-back national title-game appearances actually would have seemed more plausible 15 months ago than Kate Martin making an opening-night WNBA roster.

That’s because 15 months ago, Martin wasn’t even sure she wanted to return to college for her sixth-year senior season.

“It’s hard work being the glue,” her father, Matt Martin, recalled Monday night, referencing his daughter’s affectionate nickname among her adoring fans. (And, boy, are they are adoring.) “Even though she loved her experience at Iowa, it’s still hard work – being the captain, the glue and attending to everybody’s needs and wants. So, I understood when she questioned whether she wanted to return or not.

“But obviously she did, and there’s been a huge domino effect since. It’s just unbelievable.”

Kate Martin will wear No. 20 for the Las Vegas Aces, just like she did at Iowa.

Since Martin returned to Iowa, the world of Matt and Jill Martin, Kate’s parents, has also been turned upside down in many ways. They can’t believe they’ve found themselves in meaningful conversation with “Ted Lasso” (actor Jason Sudeikis). They have been to another Final Four, another national championship game. They also have come to grips with the fact that their daughter has become a celebrity – not exactly like Caitlin Clark, but not that far off.

“We will admit that there is a celebrity to Kate now,” Matt said. “We fought it. We laughed at it. We thought it was silly. But … she definitely has a following now that is undeniable. That’s just crazy to us.”

So when Kate called home several days ago on FaceTime, her mother actually wasn’t that surprised when the big news was delivered.

But ever the comedian, Kate didn’t let her roster news slip until a casual reference deep into the conversation.

“I was kind of mad at her, actually,” Jill said, laughing. “We had talked for like 15 minutes like normal. Then she’s like, ‘Hey, by the way, nobody’s supposed to know this. But I made the roster.’”

Considering Kate Martin averaged 7.7 points per game for Iowa in the 2022-23 season, that decision to return to Iowa – or begin what she hopes becomes a basketball coaching career – was difficult. Martin and teammate Gabbie Marshall announced on Feb. 20, 2023, that they would come back to play for the Hawkeyes in Clark’s senior season.

Martin’s production jumped to 13.1 points per game, but even so, she wasn’t expected to be chosen in the WNBA Draft on April 15. And even after she was surprisingly selected No. 18 by the Las Vegas Aces, second- or third-round picks rarely make a 12-player roster with only 12 teams in the league. Even first-round picks sometimes get cut.

“She said (before) her first practice with the Aces, ‘I’m just going to go out there and enjoy it,’” Jill Martin said. “… I think it paid off.”

The Aces are the two-time defending WNBA champions for a reason. They smartly recognized how Martin, a 6-foot guard, can contribute with versatility on the court and leadership off of it.

“Kate Martin is awesome. Kate Martin picks up things so quickly,” Las Vegas star Kelsey Plum recently said. “She an amazing sponge.”

Matt Martin has been thankful in what Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon saw in his daughter.

“I don’t think they were looking for a Caitlin Clark,” he said. “They were looking for role players that were going to make them better and players that understood their roles. I think Kate, at least right now, is the right fit for their program.”

In her only preseason game, Martin played 10 minutes. She took one shot, a 3-pointer, and made it. She made both free throws for a total of five points. She had two assists. Typical Kate. By the way, former Hawkeye Megan Gustafson had 17 points in that 102-50 win over the Puerto Rico national team.

Kate Martin, middle, and parents Jill and Matt Martin after winning last year's Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis. Kate is the youngest of three and her older sister, Kennedy, played college basketball at Truman State.

The reason Martin coyly let slip that she made the Aces roster – a news item that didn’t become official until Monday, when Bluder’s retirement and Jan Jensen’s promotion to Iowa head coach overshadowed it – was because of something Plum suggested. Plum said that Martin would want her family at the first game, and the Martins – who live in Moline, Illinois – needed a little heads up if they were going to travel two time zones in time for Tuesday’s 9 p.m. CT home opener vs. the Phoenix Mercury.

Martin’s mom, older sister (Kennedy) and 8-month-old nephew (Carson) were set to fly out to Las Vegas on Tuesday morning.

There, they’ll witness the latest unexpected development for Kate Martin – her official WNBA debut.

Her wild year continues.