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After a 20-0 conclusion to a regular season that gave Madison (WI) Memorial High School their first ever conference championship, junior standout guard Wes Matthews, Jr. was beaming about the Spartans' unprecedented success.
"We have a great team because we just have such great chemistry," the 6'4" Wisconsin standout told The Bootleg after win #20. "I don't know many other teams that have what we have. On and off the court, we're all like brothers. It's just a special group to be a part of."
That conference title was followed by three wins in the postseason for a 23-0 record and sectional title. That put Memorial in the state tournament for the first time in school history, where they then marched to two more wins and a berth in the state title game against defending champs Milwaukee King. The high-flying Spartans were spanked in that championship contest by 17 points, but Matthews was playing with essentially just one hand after breaking his thumb in the state semifinals.
"I stepped up my game a lot in the playoffs," the injured star states. "But breaking my thumb in the second game really limited me and what I could do against their pressure."
Memorial (25-1) finished the season last Saturday with their lone loss on the year, but it was a wildly successful season worth celebrating for this burgeoning start from the Badger State. He averaged 15.8 points, six boards, four assists and two steals per game playing everywhere from point guard to power forward. At 6'4", Matthews is a versatile athlete with quickness and athleticism that reminds you a little of Tim Morris, while offering a smoother stroke on his perimeter jump shot. He might have the passing vision and understanding of a point guard, but his size and athletic abilities have most colleges eying him as a wing prospect.
"15 points may not sound like a lot, but we have a really balanced team. Anyone can score on any given night," the cerebral student-athlete explains. "I'm the leader of the team, vocally and with how I play. My role is to score more now than in the past, with my outside game and inside drives. I'm a distributor by nature, though. I don't mind it if I see someone else with a better position for a score."
Matthews exploded onto the national scene with some breakout performances last summer on the AAU scene with the Friends of Hoop Wisconsin squad, which helped earn him an early Top 40 and four-star rating at TheInsiders, as well as a #51 national ranking by another recruiting service. His athleticism allowed him to put up nice numbers as a sophomore at Memorial, but he says he has matured as a junior.
"I've just grown more witty - I see things so much better and instinctively know what to do - more than specific abilities I've improved," Matthews offers.
In-state powers Wisconsin and Marquette were sold after last summer's performances, though, and both tendered scholarship offers early in the fall of his junior year before he started his high school season. Word has continued to spread to other corners of the country, with Stanford, Kentucky, Connecticut, Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia and Georgia Tech all hitching their wagons to his star.
"I really don't have a favorite," the Madison man of the hour allows. "I want to go wherever happens to be the best place for me. I haven't really tried to figure out who I like the most. I've just been trying to stay focused on high school. Now that the season is over, though, I think this is the time to think more about recruiting."
Wesley Matthews, Sr. was a standout player for Wisconsin in the late 1970s, leading the Badgers three years in scoring and making the jump to the NBA after his junior season. The 6'1" guard was the only underclassman taken in the first round of the 1980 draft, going #14 to the Washington Bullets. With a father for a legend in Wisconsin's corner, plus a mother who was a basketball and track star for the Badgers, it would seem a foregone conclusion that the younger Matthews will matriculate to the nearby Madison campus.
But his mother, Pam Moore, has never pushed her alma mater, and Wes Sr. has been removed from the family in Atlanta for most of the the boy's life.
"I never really grew up a pure Badger fan, which is a little weird," the recruit reveals. "Having two parents who went to Wisconsin doesn't influence me at all. It's me and my time."
With a mother who does push academics, Matthews holds a 3.3 GPA with a rigorous class load at Memorial. He scored a 23 on the ACT in December during his high school season and is looking to retake the test this spring to drive his score higher. His interest in Stanford is high enough that he requested that the Cardinal coaching staff send him an admissions application a couple months ago. He is working on filling it out now.
"I know they're a great school, and I've had good talks with Coach [Russell] Turner," the Wisconsin junior declares. "I'm pretty sure I'll take official visits to Stanford, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Marquette."
Matthews is in no hurry, however to rush into a college decision. His high school season just ended but he will be in the thick of AAU action as soon as his broken thumb heals in April. Spring events he will play with the Friends of Hoop include the Kingwood Classic, Spiece Run 'N Slam and the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions - plus various local tournaments. This summer look for him at the ABCD camp to kick off July, and then making a swing out West for the Reebok Big Time in Las Vegas and Best of Summer in Los Angeles.
"Late summer is when I think I'll look more at recruiting," Matthews comments on his timing. "Ideally I would like to have a decision before my senior season. If I could pick a school right after the summer, that would be perfect, but I'll take longer if I need to."
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