Mount Carmel (Essex, Md.) freshman guard Montez Mathis comes about his affinity for the Terps honestly.
"I have always liked Maryland. My mom was a big, big Len Bias fan. And ever since she told me about Len Bias, and showed me clips of him, I just started liking Maryland a lot," Mathis said.
One of the brightest young stars on the local prep scene, Mathis has helped guide the Cougars to a 26-7 mark, as well as a No. 1 area ranking, heading into the Feb. 20 BCL tournament, when Mount Carmel meets Mount St. Joe's in the opening round on Friday. It was his first year at the Essex school.
"It was really nice and exciting, starting as a freshman for Mount Carmel. I just knew I had to come in and contribute a lot of good minutes, and just play my game and help the team out a lot," Mathis said.
And that's an understatement, as we've probably never seen a freshman starter on varsity let the game come to him as the smooth and poised-beyond-his-years Mathis does.
"I just let the game come to me because whenever I force things I just have a bad game. And I just like getting after it on defense before I try to do something on offense," Mathis said.
Coming up, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Mathis liked Charm City ballers Will Barton and Josh Selby, but at a higher level Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards.
"But know I just have to get a consistent jump shot like Bradley Beal," Mathis said.
The long and athletic Mathis has a 6-9 wing span and plays the game effortlessly, belying his age. This season he averaged 11.3 points per game, three assists per game and three rebounds per game. He went for 18 points Feb. 15 in a loss to Calvert Hall in the MIAA "A" conference finals at UMBC, and had a season-high of 24 points this year against Spalding.
Mathis was born in Baltimore, moved to South Carolina for a few years, and moved back to Charm City when he was seven. His mother, Kim Mathis, is from Newberry, S.C., and moved around as part of a military family coming up.
"She just always used to watch Len Bias," Mathis said. "I just know he was a really good player, he was aggressive, he was strong, he could do everything. But I guess he just made a bad decision," Montez Mathis said.
Mathis took in the Terps-Northwestern game last month at the Xfinity Center, and will be back at UMD next week for the Wisconsin game. On the Terps he said:
"Yes sir, I think they have had some nice recruiting classes coming in, getting two of the best players out of Maryland last year, Dion Wiley and Melo Trimble. And I just think they are building the pieces together and have been successful so far."
So far, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Wake Forest, Xavier and Temple are in touch the most early. If Maryland was to offer, he said:
"Oh wow, that would just be a big surprise I guess. Wow would be my reaction. It is early, but I think I like Maryland the most."
Mathis plays his AAU ball for Team Takeover.
As he hones his own game, which is a selfless "team" game led by his court vision, ability to distribute, and disruptiveness at the defensive end, Mathis has some things in mind.
"I think I have to get stronger, be a more efficient ball handler, and my efficiency coming up like being a better free throw shooter," Mathis said. "And if something does not go right, I think my maturity. I have worked on that a lot. I pick myself up and my team up instead of complaining."
And that even-keeled temperament he said comes from his teammates and parents.
"I get it from my teammates, because they always talk to me about keeping my head on straight. And then my parents, if I do have any body language they always sit down and talk to me about how I have to work on it and other stuff," Mathis said.
Mathis said sports medicine may be the course of study he will look at in college down the road. He said he may still be growing, doctors tell him. Of Mount Carmel's breakthrough season this year, of which he was a big part, he said:
"I am really proud of how we came on this season. At first we started off 7-6 and everything wasn't clicking, we weren't trusting one another. And then one day we all just had a meeting, which allowed us to trust each other and build a lot of chemistry, and we have been clicking ever since."
Meet Freshman Sensation Montez Mathis
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