MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–One face that West Virginia fans have become familiar with the last couple of weeks have been that of Emmitt Matthews Jr.
After the Western Kentucky loss, the Mountaineers needed a little spark and the four-star recruit provided just that.
Matthews didn’t play in the opening loss to Buffalo or in WVU’s loss in Myrtle Beach. However, head coach Bob Huggins wanted to see what he could do.
And the Tacoma, Wash. native provided a refreshing breath of air for a Mountaineer team that was struggling to find its identity.
Against Valparaiso, Matthews scored five points and grabbed five boards. He followed that performance with an 11-point performance against Rider.
“He gives us a good spark,” junior forward Lamont West said. “He is always trying to compete for minutes so if coach tells him he got to do something, he is going to go out there and try and do it. He wanted to try and rebound for us and I feel like he did that.”
While Matthews didn’t see much playing time at the beginning of the season, he didn’t let that bring him down. Instead, the 6-foot-6, 160-pound small forward continued working hard and turned his fortune around.
That was what caught Huggins’ eye.
“It’s refreshing because he comes in. He’s in there early,” he said. “He stays late. He’s the kind of guy that you want to coach. He listens. He doesn’t ever try to make excuses. If he does something, you explain it to him and sometimes maybe I explain it a little louder than I should but he listens. He’s not trying to explain to me why the guy drove by him and scored, why he didn’t pass the ball when his teammate was wide open or things like that. He listens.”
Matthews accepted his role at WVU and was eager to learn.
“I try and stay coachable, crash the glass, get to the basket, just play my role and not try and do too much on offense,” he said. “Defense is definitely a big thing here. If you don’t play defense, you’re going to come out, you’re not going to play. Me being able to play defense along with all those positions has been able to help me get on the court and staying on the court.”
The freshman respects his coach, after all, he only has 850 wins.
“Huggs is hands down one of the best coaches ever,” Matthews said. “You can’t really compare, get the numbers, get whatever you want. He’s one of the best coaches ever. If he’s telling me something, I really have no option but to listen. He’s been around this game longer than I’ve been alive. Learning from him, it has helped me a lot and now on the court I am seeing things that I didn’t see before I got here. Seeing the open man, catch, turn, look, triple threat always. He teaches us a lot and it’s a lot of fundamental stuff.
“You don’t think about fundamental stuff at this level because you think that you already have it but here it’s so technical at this level. Everything matters. You can make little mistakes and it can cost you big time, cause a run for the other team. I always try to listen to them and that’s kind of been my thing my whole life. I try to listen and take from people what I can. Huggs has given me an unlimited supply of material that I can use on the court. He can give me as much as he wants.”
The Wilson High School alum picked up that attitude from his father, Emmitt Matthews Sr.
“My dad was my coach my whole life and I just always tried to listen to him because I knew that for where I wanted to go, he had,” he said. “That translated to high school and here, it’s working.”
Cover Photo Credit: Shanna Rose, BGS