Six years ago, Brian Mathews didn’t even play basketball: He was a soccer goalkeeper. Fast-forward to late August and Mathews committed to play Division 1 basketball at UMass.
How exactly did he go from hoops newbie to college player so quickly?
Like many other athletes thrust into basketball at that age, Mathews, a Chicago resident, was blessed with height that naturally attracts them to the game (or often brings people in the game to them). Mathews was 6-5 when he entered high school and had a size 15 shoe in seventh grade. Still, he was an expectedly raw prospect.
“He was big and long — imagine a puppy dog,” Tom Kleinschmidt, Mathews’ high school head coach at DePaul College Prep, said in a phone interview. “He was all over the place. His body was so big, he couldn’t control it at 12 years old [when I first met him].”
Still, being tall doesn’t guarantee that someone plays in college. Mathews had something many other young bigs lack.
“What stuck out to me was how hard he played,” Kleinschmidt said. “To get a kid that size to play that hard that early, it’s a great piece of clay [to mold].”Read more