John Hardin’s Alex Matthews still is on the recruiting trail.
“It’s going pretty well, talking to a few schools,” he said. “Since I can’t go anywhere on visits and they can’t visit me, I’m making the best of it right now. Since a lot of the gyms are not open in our area, I have this homemade court thing going on and I’m working out at home now.
“I’m trying to do the best I can with the resources I have.”
Matthews was named the Kentucky Gatorade Boys’ Player of the Year Thursday after finishing his senior season with the 30-4 Bulldogs averaging 23 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.
He is the first John Hardin basketball player to win the award.
“I was half-asleep this morning when I found out,” he said with a laugh. “I got an email saying I have won it and Coach (Jared) McCurry sent me a text, too saying I had won. When I got in my right mind, I was really excited and started telling my family and friends.
“This shows that I’m a top player in the state and starting to get some national recognition. I know that I have some kind of potential. I think it should help recruiting a lot. It shows that I’m not just a good player, but that I’m good academically, too. I’m good in the classroom, just like I give good effort on the court.”
But that good classroom thing was implemented the hard way.
“I hated school in middle school and didn’t want to be there,” Matthews said. “As soon as I got in high school, I knew that in order to go to the next level and play college ball, I had to have the grades. I got over it and handled my business in the classroom.
“I missed a few games in middle school because of grades. That’s when I realized that grades are serious and I got it together. I hated sitting on the bench and watching games. My sophomore year in high school after the season ended my grades starting slipping and I got a pep talk from my parents and family and ever since that I haven’t really had any problems.”
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls’ volleyball, boys’ and girls’ cross country, boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ soccer, baseball, softball, and boys’ and girls’ track and field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Matthews joins Gatorade Kentucky Boys Basketball Players of the Year Isaiah Cozart (2018-19, Madison Central High School), CJ Fredrick (2017-18, Covington Catholic High School), Taveion Hollingsworth (2016-17, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School), Quentin Goodin (2015-16, Taylor County High School), and Camron Justice (2014-15, Knott County Central High School) among the state’s list of former award winners.
Matthews, also a Kentucky Mr. Basketball candidate, has done all of this during his senior year after his father Earl suddenly passed away Aug. 14.
“Everybody knew my dad. He was one of my biggest supporters and he was pretty much at every game my whole life,” he said. “That was more fuel to drive me to do better this year. He would not want me to slop and slow down. He would want me to be the best me I can be. It kept me going every day.
“My dad never let me have the easy road out. He never handed me anything. He pushed me to earn things for myself. If I missed layups, it was 10 push-ups. If I missed a free throw, it was five push-ups, stuff like that. He wanted me and pushed me to work hard for what I wanted.”
Matthews leaves the program joining Mickey Pearson as the only two players in Bulldogs’ history to score more than 1,000 points and grab more than 1,000 rebounds.
John Hardin lost 11 games in Matthews’ freshman season. He was a part of 13 losses the rest of his career.
Matthews hit 41-of-100 3s this year, taking 80 more than last season and improving his shooting percentage by one point. He also shot 82.4 percent from the free throw line, improving that by 19.1 percent from a year ago.
“If you want to do special things in the program you’ve got to have that drive and guys have to buy in, and I think Alex saw that as a young player with Mickey and followed his lead,” McCurry said. “Trevon Haris is the same way. They are all competitors. The young guys see that and they know that’s what we expect out of them. They’ll do the same thing when they get into his spot.
“If you want to be a great player, you have to do those things. You can’t just show up and play and Alex has done those things.”
Matthews, the Area Player of the Year last season and the two-time 5th Region Player of the Year, was the Class 2-A State Tournament MVP both seasons, and concluded his career with 1,747 points and 1,103 rebounds.
“I never envisioned being the Gatorade Player of the Year,” said Matthews, who will look into majoring in business marketing and minoring in psychology once he chooses a college. “I just wanted to be the best me I could be and let that take me somewhere.”