TOWSON, Md. -- If he doesn't lead, ahem, the nation in "blown assists," well Mount Carmel (Essex, Md.) standout freshman wing Montez Mathis at the very least leads Charm City in unfulfilled "dimes."
Terrapin Times got its second live look at the smooth and poised freshman starter in the postseason, when Mount Carmel took on Mount St. Joseph's (Baltimore, Md.) in the BCL playoff quarterfinals late last month at Calvert Hall (Towson, Md.).
In what ended up a 58-48 Mount Carmel win, Mathis, who we scouted the week before and easily had 5 blown assists versus St. Frances teammates couldn't finish a foot or two from the bucket after he delivered drive-and-draw dishes, or well-placed entry passes over zones, had the same experience in the win over the Gaels on Friday a week later.
Mathis, who sees the floor beautifully and lets the game come to him unlike any freshman we have seen in years, pitched in 9 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers, and the 5 other blown assists that teammates like bigs David Erebor and Will Jenkins simply couldn't finish after soft deliveries deep on the blocks.
Mathis finished 4-for-7 from the field, 1-for-3 three-pointers, and 0-for-1 from the free throw line, and again showed his composed, stat-stuffer game with several deflections and altered shots at the defensive end, be it in the passing lanes or down on the blocks.
The 6-foot-4 glider nailed a deep trey in front of the MSJ bench in the first half, while on a dribble-drive take from the left wing a first-half shot of his was blocked, when maybe he coasted a bit too much and didn't show the 'ups' we anticipated. But a few minutes later he got out on the break and stuffed a two-handed jam with his chin well above the rim to help turn the tide in favor of Mount Carmel, which trailed early and only led by two points heading into the fourth quarter.
Mathis was smooth as usual, never forced anything, always looked to pass first, and if not for his bigs' inability to finish some serious gimees on the blocks (Erebor would catch fire late to finish with 14 points to lead Mount Carmel), his assist numbers would have been more impressive. Mathis again showed his great feel and anticipation, and ability to probe zone defenses and attract multiple defenders only to dish to teammates at just the right time and in ideal scoring position.
But again it was a night many of those would-be-dimes wouldn't be cashed in. He has a great way about him to patiently (especially for a freshman) probe and pick apart defenses, while at 6-4-plus he can see over and drop the perfect entry pass to the post as well. He also helped lead the break numerous times, putting lead passes on the money to streaking teammates often half or three-quarters court.
Maryland assistant coach Bino Ranson was in attendance yet again, and the Terps are tracking Mathis hard and hosted him for a few games this season, and hosted him again Feb. 24 against Wisconsin.
Other compelling evidence for a bright future is when you talk to rival, league coaches about the "Yes sir, no sir" Mathis, who to a letter respond "great player, great kid." And in the competitive nature of the BCL, and the local recruiting wars for the top young prospects, you don't always hear that repeatedly and emphatically.
Mathis is a freshman star on the rise, and could be an early-offer type soon for Maryland, just like another Charm City young standout, sophomore forward Myles Douglas of Friends, who got his Terps offer last week and is a UM lean at this time. Mathis, while it is early, has the Terps on top as well.
Finally, sitting at the game, there were Mount Carmel fans and parents roiling in their seats, borderline-apoplectic, after the countless Mathis dishes went unfulfilled, as if there was a lid on the bucket it was so glaring. And we've never seen a wing guard (maybe a point guard) go through such a drought.
But Mathis never stopped trying to feed the post, just as we saw against SFA the week before in another big win, as pass-first and team-first is what his game is all about.
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