Washington has now made its second addition via the transfer portal this offseason as former West Virginia Mountaineer SF Emmitt Matthews Jr. committed to the Huskies. Last season as a junior Matthews started 25 games for West Virginia which earned a #3 seed in the NCAA tournament and averaged 7.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. He’ll have 3 years to play 2 for Washington.
“Think I walk on water but I never let them bridges burn” pic.twitter.com/YFY1Hu6ZyC— Emmitt Matthews Jr. (@THEDOOSKIE) April 18, 2021
The 6’7 Matthews was originally the 177th ranked recruit in the 247 Sports Composite coming out of Wilson HS in Tacoma. He originally committed to Connecticut but backed off that pledge in the spring after head coach Kevin Ollie was fired. Washington inquired but with Jamal Bey already signed there was less need for a player with a very similar body type and he ended up at West Virginia.
In his first season Matthews mostly came off the bench but wound up starting the final 12 games. He struggled with his shooting (24.1% 3pt) but was an effective offensive rebounder and had a 28 point, 8 rebound outburst against eventual NCAA runner-up Texas Tech in the Big-12 tournament. As a sophomore Matthews solidified his starting role although his numbers only increased slightly as his 3-pt shooting improved but his FT shooting dipped.
This past season as a junior Matthews again started for most of the year but never took a leap. He finished 4th on the team in minutes played but just 6th in points per game. His season high was 14 points which he hit twice including in the NCAA loss to Syracuse although in that last game it took him 16 shots to get there.
On the one hand the Huskies are adding a player that was essentially a 2.5 year starter for a perennial top-25 program. He has big game experience and knows how to play a role on a winning team. There’s also a reason he became available.
There hasn’t been much in the way of development for Matthews. His minutes have increased by about 5 per game every year and correspondingly his points have only risen by about 1.0 per game and his rebounds by 0.5. His steal and block numbers haven’t changed much since year one.
Matthews is a career 28.2% 3-pt shooter so he can’t stretch the floor as well as you’d like for a 6’7 wing. Fortunately he’s not completely in love with the 3-pt shot as about 2/3rd of his career attempts have come from inside the arc. He much prefers to slash to the basket and finish at the rim in transition.
Per Synergy Sports’ points per possession tracking Matthews ranked in the 38th percentile on offense and the 33rd percentile on defense last year. The Mountaineers ran almost exclusively man-to-man defense so it’s unclear whether playing in a zone might help Matthews succeed on that end of the floor. His wingspan is about equal to his height so he isn’t exactly a prototypically lanky defender for the zone. But he’s still 6’7 and could easily fill a 3/4 hybrid role. Matthews’ steal % marks ranged from 1.1% - 1.7% and his blocks 1.1% - 1.8%. For context, the high end of those numbers are about what Jamal Bey did last year but the steal percentage was about half of Bey’s marks in prior seasons.
Overall, Washington should know what they’re getting in Matthews. He’ll take about two 3-pt shots per game and make about 30% of them. He’s a slightly worse defensive rebounder than you’d like from a 6’7 wing but slightly better on the offensive glass. Matthews has the size/agility to switch on defense but he’s not going to get his hands on the ball all that often. He won’t kill you on that end but he also won’t be a supreme asset.
In an ideal situation Matthews is the glue guy. A swiss army knife that can be a small ball 4 or a 2/3 wing if needed that is somewhere between the 30th and 70th percentile at just about every skill. That’s a valuable player to have but becomes more valuable the better the roster around him. We never saw Matthews be more than the 4th banana when he was at West Virginia. On a Washington team that doesn’t have the same level of talent we’ll see if he still is more comfortable staying as a supporting cast member or tries to be more assertive on offense.
There are likely further additions to come from the transfer portal but for now Matthews slots in as a contender to start at the small forward spot. Without Stevenson and Tsohonis we should see more Jamal Bey at shooting guard and a potential starting lineup of 6’3 Brown, 6’6 Bey, 6’7 Matthews, 6’10 Grant, and 6’11 Roberts isn’t hard to envision (again pending further adds). This is the kind of addition that raises the floor for next year’s team even if it doesn’t lift the ceiling by all that much.
Welcome home Emmitt!