Brooklyn-native A.J. Matthews opening eyes before NBA Draft

Nets GM Billy King put the chances at "10 percent" for his team to make a trade. Credit: Getty Images
Nets GM Billy King hosted a tryout camp for college players looking to impress scouts before the draft.
Credit: Getty Images

Farmingdale State center A.J. Matthews grew up 10 minutes from the Barclays Center and has a sister working in concessions. If he can do enough to impress executives from teams around the NBA, Matthews might find himself stepping on the court to play.

The 7-foot-1 Matthews is not listed in many mock drafts but he has warranted some attention and took the first step toward possibly getting an opportunity by competing in the opening session of the second day of the NBA combine hosted by the Nets in conjunction with the Rockets and Clippers on Thursday.

The first step is showing he can compete against a higher level of competition than he faced in the Division III Skyline Conference. Matthews was not invited to last month’s Portsmouth Invitational, but earned an invite to Brooklyn after leading Division III in rebounding (16.3 per game) and double-doubles (26) while finishing third in blocks (3.67 per game) and 11th in scoring (22.4 points per game).

“When you’re playing 5-on-5, running up and down, it shows your stamina, your conditioning, your play against other big men,” Matthews said. “It shows your jumping ability as far as individuals you don’t really [get to] show what you can do against somebody else. I feel it helped me out a lot. It showed me I can [play] with these upper class guys as far as Division I, because I knew I could before I even got here. I wasn’t even worried about that. I just want to show everyone else that coming from D-3 I can play with other guys.”

It’s not the first time he has drawn attention from the NBA scouting community. During the season, scouts from the Nets, Knicks, Bobcats, Wizards, Pacers, Bulls, Magic and Lakers attended his games and watched as he generated offense mostly on high-percentage shots and put-backs.

To prepare for being on the court at the same time with 10 other players all from Division I, Matthews spent most of the past two months focusing on jump shooting in workouts.

He began to focus on the draft after his final college game, a 71-46 loss to Purchase in the conference tournament. In that game, Matthews scored 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting, including going 7-for-15 on jump shots.

“After the season, I really worked on it a lot as far as shooting jump shots,” Matthews said. “Guys are a much smaller than me [in Division III] and I feel like I didn’t need to shoot a jump shot or work on a 3-point shot because guys are smaller than me or out of shape maybe.

“So I feel like after the season when I come here, I know I have to work on a jump shot because I’m going to be playing against guys that’s much bigger than me, stronger, height wise and tall and whatever the case may be. So I tried to work on my overall game a lot but I felt like it got better, much better.”

Matthews did not start playing basketball until 11th grade at Harry Van Arsdale High School in Williamsburg. He caught some Division I attention from UMass, Rutgers and St. John’s, but it never materialized as he could not qualify academically. Instead, he went to prep school in Harrisburg, Pa. before going to Monroe Community College in New Rochelle, N.Y. and Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Matthews did enough in college to get invited to a workout with 43 other players looking for a chance. If he can succeed in the next stage, an individual workout with a team, he will become the fourth Division III player to be drafted and first since the Lakers took Devean George from Augsburg College (Minn.) in 1999.

Miami’s Scott works out for Lakers

Former Rice High School (Bronx, N.Y.) star, and close friend of Kemba Walker, Durand Scott was among those participating on Day 1 of the combine on Wednesday. The Miami (Fla.) product is currently not listed on any mock drafts but he is hoping that changes after playing point guard in the event.

“They bring me out here in the point and I just try and get my guys in the best possible position to get the basketball and just go out there and just try to be a leader on the court,” Scott said. “I think I did today and in the same vein I looked for my shot and hit a couple of 3s.”

Scott was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and averaged 13.1 points per game in leading the Hurricanes to the Regional semifinals along with Shane Larkin. It earned him an invite to Portsmouth where he scored 22 points in two games and earned a workout with the Lakers.

“It was great, different,” Scott said. “They were my first workout and I kind of got my feet wet and kind of see how hard it is and things like that. It went pretty well. All you can do is play as hard as you can and that’s what I tried to do.”

Nets begin draft prep without coach

Even though Nets general manager Billy King has yet to name a successor to fired head coach P.J. Carlesimo, their personnel department has spent the last year going to college games and other related events looking to see if anyone besides the obvious names might stand out when it comes time to find a player with the No. 22 selection in the first round.

“I think it’s always a little bit easier when you have a head coach in place,” said Nets director of player personnel Gregg Polinsky. “That being said, the one thing about Billy is that the personnel people have been out seeing these people all year long [and] we’ve done our homework. At the end of the day the decision will be made by Billy.

“The information will be supplied by personnel people on where we think this fits and how we’re going to list these guys in terms of order of preference. So the coach is always important but I think being here, knowing what the foundation is and knowing what our team looks like going forward puts us in position to do it without a coach at the present time.”

Polinsky did not get into specifics but among the players who impressed him were Louisville’s Peyton Siva, Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and Long Beach State’s James Ennis.

Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher for news on the team leading up to the draft.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.