The Bootleg: Matt, can you tell us about the season Page had this year?
We've read a little from the Arizona papers online, but would love to hear
more from what by all accounts was a legendary one for you and your school.
Matt Haryasz: It was a fantastic year for Page High School basketball. We had a record-breaking season shattering 19 school or individual records while advancing to the state championship game. We won 29 games, which was a school record and our average margin of victory was 16 points, another school record. We managed to stay unbeaten at home, with our 2 loses coming on neutral courts. Ranked in the Top 10 of the state all year long, our high water mark was the third position. Although we lost in the State Championship game, this season was the most exciting in Page basketball history.
The Bootleg: Can you talk a little about some team highlight moments, or
big games you guys had?
Matt Haryasz: Our season had plenty of memorable games. Those wins defined our team's character. In the championship game of a holiday tournament, we played Dixie High School the #2 ranked team in the state Utah. Behind by 6 in the third quarter we ran off 13 straight points and ultimately won. This was a huge win for us as Dixie is a perennial Utah power and a team that we had not beaten in several years. A week later we played Dixie again, this time on their home court. This was an intense game, as Dixie was looking to avenge their only loss of the season. It was a wild game as we came from behind to tie the score with six seconds left, stole the inbound pass and laid the ball in for the win as the buzzer sounded.
The following week we defeated another strong Utah team, Snow Canyon High School by 17. Snow Canyon ultimately won the Utah State Championship. We also had 3 conference games that were either won with the final shot of regulation, clutch free throws at the end of the game or in overtime.
However, the most exciting game of the year came in the quarterfinal game of the state tournament. This game pitted us against the #2 team in the state, McClintock High School from Phoenix. They were an extremely athletic team considered to be the second best team in the state regardless of class. Although our record was 27-1 there were still many doubters in Phoenix about the quality of our team. This was a big game for us. The game was scheduled for a neutral site in Flagstaff. On a Thursday night, approximately 2500 people from Page made the 5 hour round trip to watch us play. The game started at 7:00 p.m., but Page fans lined up to get tickets at 4:30 p.m.! Our following all year was fantastic. The game was incredibly intense. It went back and forth game with neither team leading by more than six points. We won the game by two points and finally gained respect from the rest of the state.
Our small town was electric with excitement as we entered the semi-final round. We had 4000 fans make the 300-mile drive to Phoenix to watch our semi-final game (which we won by 18), and a reported 6000 folks made the five hour one-way drive for the championship game. Keep in mind, our town only has a population of 7000! I cannot begin to explain to you how wonderful those last several weeks were. The level of excitement in our town was something I will never forget.
The Bootleg: The last summer and this year were a real "coming
out" for your basketball talents as well. Can you tell us what that
transformation and recognition has been like for you?
Matt Haryasz: I found it amazing how quickly a player can go from being "an unknown" to being offered big time scholarships on a national level. I entered the "Adidas Big Time" with a number of schools on the west coast aware of me (Stanford being one) but without a national reputation due mostly because of where I live. During the summer tournaments, I worked my tail off and played my game, which is to mix up my inside and outside offensive game, play "D", block shots and outrun the other big man down the court for easy buckets. Well, my efforts paid off as universities and recruiting services took notice of this kid from nowhere and bam! just like that, I gained a national reputation.
The attention was overwhelming at times. Our phone rang incessantly and the mailbox was constantly filled. I was asked to give countless interviews to newspapers and internet services. Now, that has been an education in itself. I have learned to be very careful with what I say and how I say it. Overall I would have to say that it has been extremely satisfying to realize that all the time and effort, which I found fun, pay off in a very big way. I have been very fortunate and it has been a dream come true
The Bootleg: How about individual highlight moments or games for you this season?
Matt Haryasz: The entire year was a highlight film for the school, team and myself but if I had to pick several games that stand out here we go: In a Christmas tournament, I had a career high 39 points against the #3 ranked team in 5A, Deer Valley, (which is the largest class in the state). Against a conference rival, Flagstaff High, I recorded a triple double with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 blocks (the 12 blocks were a school record). In another conference game against Sinagua High, I nailed 10 of 11 free throws in the final 3 minutes for the win. In the state quarterfinals I scored 7 points in the final minutes and hit several key free throws in the final seconds to ultimately seal the game. These were memorable games, but once again the entire season was amazing.
The Bootleg: What were your stats for this senior year?
Matt Haryasz: I averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots per contest. I shot 61% from the field, 67% from behind the arc and 70% from the foul line.
The Bootleg: Sixty-seven percent from
behind the arc! Are you serious? How many shots did you take from that range,
and do you think that's a part of your game you can achieve even close to that
level in college?
Matt Haryasz: Shows you can't always believe stats ! That stat is particularly misleading since I only took 3 shots from beyond the arc but hey, 2 out of 3 ain't bad! I actually do feel pretty comfortable shooting from beyond the arc and I believe I can be fairly proficient if given the opportunity. Our high school offense did not lend itself to me shooting from out there because we actually had a couple of guys who could hit that shot with some consistency. Besides, there aren't a lot of high school coaches that want their 6'10" guy running around shooting from out there!
The Bootleg: Does anyone give you a
hard time for your free throw percentage barely eclipsing your three-point field
goal clip? (grin)
Matt Haryasz: It was the other way around! I would tease the guards about having a better three-point percentage than they did! Seriously, you know what, nobody gave me a hard time with my free throw shooting versus my 3 point shooting because of the reasons above – I only took three - and I was usually pretty clutch from the free throw line when the game was in crunch time.
The Bootleg: To what extent did opposing defenses key on you this year,
and how did you and your team react to that?
Matt Haryasz: When in the low post I was