Marquette’s Wesley Matthews Establishes Himself in the League

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By: David Kay and Paul M. Banks

For every college basketball player hoping to continue their career at the next level, hearing their name called at the NBA Draft is a dream come true.  On June 25, 2009, sixty names were read at the podium in Madison Square Garden, but Wesley Matthews’ was not one of them.  Some things in life are a blessing in disguise and for the former Marquette star, this was certainly the case.

Despite not being drafted, Matthews earned an opportunity playing on the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings’ summer league teams.  The Madison native made the most of his chance, getting an invite to training camp with the Jazz and then securing a roster spot as an un-drafted free agent.

“Kind of has really worked out the way it has,” Matthews told The Sports Bank in an exclusive interview prior to Utah’s game in Phoenix last Thursday night.  “I could have been drafted in the second round somewhere where they really didn’t want me and be overseas playing somewhere.  Not that playing overseas is a bad thing, but I’d rather be here.”

Early season injuries to Jazz wing players Kyle Korver and C.J. Miles then opened up playing time for Matthews from the opening tip of the season.  Matthews has seized his opportunity and made a name for himself, starting in 29 of the Jazz’ 63 games and averaging 8.4 points per game which ranks fourteenth amongst NBA rookies.  He has scored in double-digits 24 times including a career-high 21 points in sparking a comeback win against the Suns on January 25th.

More times than not though, Matthews takes a back seat to All-Star teammates Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer which is a change from his days at Marquette when he was a four-year starter and often shouldered a good amount of the scoring load.  But rather than trying to do too much, the former Mr. Basketball in Wisconsin has embraced his role of being a complimentary player on the fourth place team in the Western Conference.

“It’s been tough.  I’m not going to lie.  But people that were stars at other levels and are now role players, and I think what separates those people is embracing it. I’m driving to get more.  I’m not neglecting that fact but doing what needs to be done in the game.”

Friday night, Matthews will return home, stepping onto the floor at the Bradley Center for the first time since ending his career at Marquette as the school’s eighth all-time leading scorer.  (Matthews has since been passed on that list by current Golden Eagle senior Lazar Hayward.)  “Going back home, playing in the Bradley Center, seeing everybody, there.to play basketball at the highest level in front of our families is a great feeling.”

That feeling won’t be disappearing anytime soon.  Matthews is a free agent after this season but has proven that despite being passed over by every team during the 2009 NBA Draft, he has what it takes to be a valuable contributor in the association for years to come.

“It’s great. It’s a blessing, every kid’s dream really. I’m just trying to enjoy it, get better, trying to get more.”

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