Matthews Excited To Get To WVU To Start His Mountaineer Career
The last to commit and the last to arrive. Emmitt Matthews is the final piece to the Mountaineer basketball puzzle for the class of 2018.
He was the sixth and final signee for Bob Huggins’ club this past spring. The other five have all recently made their way on to West Virginia’s campus to start summer school. Matthews will be a few weeks behind them. His graduation at Wilson High School in Tacoma, Wash., doesn’t take place until June 9, so obviously he wasn’t able to enroll at WVU for the summer school session that began June 4. He’ll arrive in Morgantown to start his college career on June 25.
Matthews will be happy to get settled in at West Virginia, as his journey to find a college home has taken him on a long and winding ride. A highly-regarded wing, Emmitt was rated the fourth best player in the state of Washington this past year. He committed to Connecticut last September shortly after taking a trip to Storrs, signing with UConn that November. But when Huskies’ coach Kevin Ollie was fired at the end of the 2017-18 season, Matthews asked for a release from his National Letter of Intent and opened his recruiting again. Arizona, Washington and Oklahoma were among many in pursuit this time, but WVU ultimately earned the commitment.
“The recruiting process was very stressful for me and my family,” Matthews admitted. “My recruiting process was a lot different than most. I’m glad it’s over, and I can move on.”
In the Mountaineers, Matthews believes he has found a good match. The 6-foot-7, 180-pound has the length to play small forward but the athleticism to play guard. After averaging 22.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 blocks per game this past season, he was named the 3A state player of the year. But he also takes pride in his defensive ability.
“West Virginia is a perfect fit for me,” Matthews said. “Being a defensive-minded program, I think that’s really good for me. We used the press in high school, and I think I fit well in that style. We’re going to be really long at West Virginia, and I think that will cause our opponents a lot of havoc.”
He scored 1,614 points and grabbed 744 rebounds in his high school career, but believes he brings more to the table than just that.
“For the past two years I had to carry a lot of the offensive load for my high school team. I was very active offensively,” Matthews explained. “But I have always prided myself on my defense as well. My game is best, I think, when I can get a steal, fly up the court and make a flashy pass or make the right play on the fast break. Defense helps your offense. It’s fun to lock down somebody defensively. A lot of kids don’t say that in high school, because for them it’s all about getting their buckets for themself. But ripping a steal away from somebody and taking it the length of the court is what I really like. With my length, I believe I can guard anyone one through three.”
And those defensive skills will immediately be put into use at WVU.
“You hear about ‘Press Virginia’ all the time. It’s one of the craziest defenses in college basketball,” he noted. “Not many people play that way, but West Virginia plays with a special defensive intensity. The steals and the breakaways feed it all. The best guards in the country go into a shell when they face that defense for 94 feet.”
Though Matthews has good length for a guard, he’s also rail thin. He acknowledges that adding size and strength will be important as he prepares for Big 12 play.
“I’m working on my strength right now,” he said. “I’m sitting at 180 (pounds). I’m working on adding weight, getting stronger, eating good food so I add good weight.”
West Virginia’s class of 2108 comes from all points on the map. Matthews is from the Great Northwest. He will be the first native of the state of Washington to play for WVU. Fellow guard Jermaine Haley didn’t grow up that far away in Vancouver, Canada, though Haley most recently went to junior college in Odessa, Texas. Derek Culver is a native of Warren, Ohio, who spent this past year at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. Andrew Gordon is a native of Clearwater, Fla., who spent two juco seasons up the Panhandle at Northwest Florida State. Trey Doomes grew up outside of Atlanta before transferring to powerhouse The University School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for his senior season. And then in the middle of all those is Jordan McCabe, the Kaukauna, Wisc., native who seemingly is the tie that binds them all together.
“We all are kind of familiar with each other,” explained Matthews. “I know Jordan and Trey from AAU. We’re all on a group chat together. People are already calling us J.E.T. – Jordan, Emmitt and Trey. That’s pretty cool. We know each other a little bit, and we’ll really bound once we get there together.”
Matthews and McCabe played together during some AAU tournaments in the past. He’s excited to team with the flashy point guard again at West Virginia.
“Jordan can shoot the ball, but the thing that really is amazing is his IQ as a point guard,” stated Matthews. “I played with a lot of great point guards during my time in AAU, but he’s the perfect mix. He surprises a lot of people with the things he does. He does things you would think are impossible. He brings a style nobody else has.”
It won’t be long before Matthews, McCabe and all the other Mountaineers, both old and new, are together.
“I’m excited to get out there,” Matthews said. “I have a lot of trust in the whole coaching staff. There are no egos involved. When I was on campus, I really loved it. I didn’t feel any negativity. Everybody loved it. It was all positive. I can’t wait to get there.”