When Kyle Wiltjer decided to transfer to Gonzaga several years ago, it felt like an event that was a long time coming to fans that follow recruiting as closely as we do. As most know, Wiltjer was a massive priority recruit for Mark Few when he was coming out of Jesuit High School in Portland. Wiltjer was swayed at the tail end of his recruitment by John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats - something we can't blame him for - but there was a certain amount of vindication when Wiltjer wound up finishing his career at Gonzaga.
While Jordan Mathews might not be as big of a household name as Wiltjer given Kyle's previous Northwest connections, Jordan was another very big recruit on the Bulldogs radar when he was exiting high school. Mathews was a member of the 2013 recruiting cycle - one which saw the Zags land just Ryan Edwards and Lucas Meikle along with transfer Gerard Coleman. His recruitment at Gonzaga came to an abrupt end following what seemed like a very close courtship. Mathews wound up selecting the California Golden Bears where he wound up having an outstanding three year career. Last season as a junior, Mathews averaged just under 14 points per game in 30 minutes. His departure from Cal came as a major surprise to most in the hoops world but his rumored attraction to Gonzaga isn't too far-fetched.
Mathews father, Phil Mathews, who is serving as the current head coach at Riverside Community College, replaced current Gonzaga assistant coach Donny Daniels at UCLA when he moved on to Spokane. That alone doesn't sound like a huge connection but Daniels and Phil Mathews are actually longtime friends which Jordan initially noted was a huge draw for his interest in Gonzaga. Now that Jordan is in the midst of his second recruiting phase, it comes as little surprise that he would want to go somewhere that not only gives him a chance at a tournament run, but also a place that feels familiar.
Gonzaga's current stable of guards is outstanding in their own right. Josh Perkins is poised for a major breakout season as the Zags' pure court general. Silas Melson showed flashes last year of being a very solid off the ball option. Lastly, Nigel Williams-Goss will be joining the Bulldogs after sitting out a year. The former Washington Huskies point guard averaged nearly 16 points per game in his last year in Seattle and should give this team a major boost in the backcourt. With this trio seemingly holding down the Bulldogs' backcourt (don't forget incoming freshman Zach Norvell), one might wonder where minutes would come in for a guy like Jordan Mathews. In looking at years past, however, it becomes very clear that Gonzaga's most outstanding teams have featured a player that can operate as a true wing.
Most recently, we must look at another graduate transfer in Byron Wesley who came from USC and played a huge role on Gonzaga's Elite 8 2014-15 team. Wesley averaged 11 points for the Zags in that season in about 27 minutes per game. Mathews can have a similar impact on the Zags next season especially when you consider that Perkins and Williams-Goss are both elite distributors and Mathews will hunt his shot. That type of player has often been absent at Gonzaga during Mark Few's tenure which is what makes Mathews such a valuable transfer. The ability to plug in a player that can be relied on for double-digit point production is massive, especially with all the experience he has to offer a relatively young group of players.
There will surely be a number of developments in the Jordan Mathews sweepstakes but, given Gonzaga's huge success with graduate transfers in recent years, it is exciting to think about next season with a potential starting backcourt of Perkins, Williams-Goss, and Mathews. Combine that with a reserve core of Melson, Norvell, and Bryan Alberts and it is clear to see why many would consider this a top backcourt in the entire country.
Keep it tuned here for all news on Jordan Mathews and other crucial Gonzaga recruiting developments.