Matt Sargeant is not the most physically gifted athlete you would find at the
Torrey Pines Holiday Classic. He's not even the most physically gifted player on
his Ocean View High School team. But Matt Sargeant is a player. He'll be
attending Princeton next year on an academic scholarship. He'll be a role
player at Princeton, but then Princeton is a team of role players, and that team
seems to go the NCAA tournament every year, and every year they seem to upset
more physically gifted teams, teams with better athletes, teams made up of stars
instead of role players.
"I wanted to go to a system where I could excel, and a team that I could help to win." Matt told me last week at the Torrey Pines tourney.
But Matt has other reasons for going to Princeton, "It is the best education you can get. Sure, if the opportunity arises, I might consider playing in Europe or the NBA, but after going to Princeton, I'll be able to do whatever I want, that was always the number one criteria in my decision."
Not that Princeton was the only option. A smart player who knows how to use his body and shoots the ball exceptionally well, Yale and Penn had come calling as well, but Princeton was the clear cut choice from the beginning.
It was the options Princeton gives him that sold him on the school, "The plan is to major in English, but at a school like Princeton you can walk into a lecture, change your mind about your major, and know that the school will have a great program for whatever I decide to study."
He knows his chances of playing beyond college are slim, but as smart as Matt is, on and off the court, coaching seems like a viable option. When this subject comes up, it seems like something Matt has thought about before, "I don't know," he laughs, "I'm not sure I have the patience for coaching, maybe as an assistant, I'll only work with the smart kids."
He already talks like a coach. After last week's loss to University of San Diego High, and their superstar Rico Tucker, I asked him what he thought of Rico as a player. "I've been playing against Rico for years, I don't think one person can stop him, so I didn't expect to, but five guys should be able to stop him, and our team defense let us down." Tucker scored 32 in the win, but don't let it be said that Sargeant didn't do his part, he had 27 in the loss.
Matt Sargeant isn't playing for a scholarship anymore; he isn't playing for himself. He's playing to win, and his Ocean View squad certainly has talent. I asked him about 6'9" freshman Clint Amberry, and Matt again was talking like a coach, "He's young, but he's stronger than a lot of kids his age and height. I think he'll be a star when he gets a little more comfortable."
He'll excel at Princeton, both on the court and off, and talking to Matt, it seems inevitable that he'll excel at whatever he chooses, basketball is a means to an end for Matt, a calculated move. In the same way he comes off baseline picks perfectly to set up his jumper, you get the sense that Matt already knows where his obstacles will be at Princeton, and he's already looking for a way to rub those obstacles off and get himself open. For Matt Sargeant, it is all about execution, on the court and in life.