POB: San Antonio, Tex.
Height: 6-5 Weight: 220 lbs
Experience: Three Years
Wesley Matthews (Jr.) (Portland Trail Blazers) has $34 million reasons to be thankful for the worst day of his professional life, though if you would have told him that three years ago, the former Marquette University standout would likely not have believed it.
Given Matthews‘ successes as a high school kid at Memorial High in Madison, Wis. and collegiate at Marquette, very few would have bet against his successes now, even fewer would have bet on momentary uncertainties of making the NBA.
Born October 14, 1986, Wesley Matthews Jr. was given birth to a pair of athletes in their own right.
Pam Moore was a two-sport athlete and track standout at the University of Wisconsin and in a member of the Badgers’ 2006 Hall of Fame class.
His father, Wesley Matthews, St. played basketball at Wisconsin and spent nine years playing in the NBA and was featured with six different teams.
Like countless others, Matthews played with more pressure given his lineage, but managed to carve a name for himself in high school.
In 2004, Matthews was named second team all-state by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as a junior, averaging 15.8 points and helping Memorial reach the state championship game.
In his senior season at Memorial, the younger Matthews was named Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after averaging 22.5 points in leading his team to a 24-2 record. Memorial avenged their loss of the season before and captured the state championship.
Instead of following in the footsteps of his parents, Matthews ventured to Milwaukee to join the Golden Eagles.
In his freshman season, he appeared in 23 games with 13 starts, before suffering a stress fracture in his foot. With an all-around game predicated on effort on the defensive end and aggression at the offensive one, Matthews assaulted the school’s record book.
He started 117 of 127 games, and finished as Marquette’s all-time leader in free throws made (549). Furthermore, he ranked eighth all-time in scoring (1,673) and third in games played (127) when his career concluded.
He also was the 22nd player in Marquette history to combine for over 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.
After a 2008-09 senior season that featured Matthews averaging 18.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game on 47.5 percent shooting from the field and second-team All-Big East honors, the Golden Eagles and Matthews were confident about his NBA prospects. League executives were not as sure.
In total, 60 names were called on June 25, 2009.
Busts such as Hasheem Thabeet (2nd), DeMarre Carroll (27th), Nick Calathes (45th), and Jack McClinton (51st) were all taken in the 2009 NBA Draft, and not one of them was Wesley Matthews’. Humbled and undeterred, Matthews looked towards Plan B: Proving himself on the NBA summer circuit.
In cities such as Orlando, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City along the NBA summer circuit is where undrafted free agents along with NBDL hopefuls go to prove themselves against recently drafted rookies and younger NBA players. All four groups jockey for attention from their own team or 29 others in hopes of cracking a rotation somewhere around the league.
The Utah Jazz offered Matthews a spot on their 2009 summer league team, and he took full advantage. His defensive performances garnered the attention of longtime Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and ultimately the Jazz offered Matthews a roster spot just three months after all 30 teams passed up on him.
Within a calendar year of not getting drafted, Matthews found himself starting at shooting guard for the Jazz after a February mid-season trade sent starter Ronnie Brewer to Chicago.
The rookie ended the 2009-10 regular season with per game averages of 9.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in approximately 24 minutes during the regular season.
In the 2010 NBA Playoffs, Matthews upped the averages to 13.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in 10 games.
Interestingly enough, not getting drafted allowed Matthews to earn a significant pay raise earlier than most of his drafted counterparts.
Unlike those drafted in the first round which had contracts lasting for multiple years at the rookie-scale wage, Matthews could go out and seek his market value after one season.
Before the start of the 2010-11 season, Matthews did just that as he signed a 5-year $34 million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers, despite making the league minimum of just over $458,000 during his rookie year.
In his first season in Rip City, Matthews thrived, averaging 15.9 points per contest on 44.9 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from the three point line while starting 69 of 82 games.
In the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign, Matthews had 53 starts in 66 contests, but saw his shooting percentages dip (41.2/38.3) and ultimately his scoring (13.7 ppg) as a result.
For the next three seasons, Matthews is undoubtedly a part of Portland’s future. Given the uncertainty of Nicolas Batum‘s contract situation in Portland, Rip City executives and fans will be looking towards Matthews to provide the same dual-threat tenacity that served him in Marquette and Utah.
There are some throughout the league who question if Matthews is good enough to start long-term in the NBA.
Given his success, Matthews will undoubtedly prove that he can.