From the sports editor: Matthews still chasing hoop dream

Smyrna’s Caleb Matthews. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

For as long as he can remember, this has been Caleb Matthews’ dream.

“My dad says I’ve been saying this since I was four or five years old,” said the former Smyrna High basketball standout. “I wanted to go play Division I basketball.”

And even though he’s now a high school graduate, Matthews isn’t willing to give up on that dream.

That’s why earlier this summer, the state Player of the Year made the decision to enroll at Mount Zion Prep near Baltimore.

Matthews already has NCAA Division I scholarship offers from NJIT, Binghamton and VMI as part of those schools’ 2019 recruiting classes. But the 6-foot-4 shooting guard also wants to see what an extra year of getting bigger and stronger will do for his profile.

He said there are probably 20-plus Division I programs that have expressed an interest in him.

When it came time to decide between accepting one of his several NCAA Division II offers or go to prep school, Matthews said the chance to play Division I basketball was still where his heart was.

Matthews said his dad, Jason, gave him some pretty simple advice.

“Just to give up on this dream over one year, you’re going to look back on this when you’re older and you’re going to be like, ‘Man, I should have done that,’” Matthews said his father told him. “You’re going to regret it.

“A lot of people I’ve talked to about it, they’re like, ‘Don’t rush to grow up.’ … One guy I talked to was like, ‘This is the best time of your life. You’ve got to enjoy it — don’t rush into anything.’ It flies by.”

Of course, just because he decided on prep school, that doesn’t mean Matthews can sit back and relax the rest of the summer.

July is a big recruiting month in the Division I basketball world and Matthews will be busy playing with the Jersey Force AAU team.

He’ll also do what he can to get bigger and stronger. Matthews said he’s put on 11 pounds — he’s up to 171 — and is a half inch taller than he was at the end of the high school season.

Matthews said he’s trying to eat 4,000-5,000 calories a day. He said college coaches told him his lack of size was his biggest drawback as a recruit.

“Every Division I school I visited, everyone was like the skill set, the shooting, the passing … was never an issue with any school,” he said. “Even when I went to Temple, nobody said anything about skills. That’s not the problem. It’s just the body.

“I talked to a nutritionist and they’re like, with your metabolism — how high it is — you should be eating 4,000 or 5,000 calories every single day. It’s a hard job to do. I’ve got to eat and I’ve got to eat and I’ve got to eat. And I’ve got to get the right foods. Because, even if you eat all day, if it’s not the right food, it’s not going to amount to 5,000 calories.”

After helping Smyrna reach back-to-back DIAA state championship games, Matthews admits it will be a little strange playing for a new school. But he said a prep school like Mount Zion is more like a small college anyway.

While it means his road to college is taking a short detour, Matthews said he feels good about his decision.

“Even say none of this works out,” said Matthews. “I gave everything I could and put myself in the position I’ve always dreamed of being in. At the end of the day, that’s all you can ask for.”

Odds & ends

• Delaware State’s search for a new men’s basketball coach is now in its fifth month. But there are signs that the Hornets are making progress.

It’s believed that newly-hired DSU athletic director Scott Gines interviewed candidates in Philadelphia last weekend. The website Hoopdirt.com reported he may have talked to as many as eight prospective coaches.

• Dover High administrators interviewed candidates for the school’s vacant athletic director position this past week. The job was left open when Aaron Harris was hired as the wrestling coach at Smyrna High.

• The Dover Summer Tennis Tournament wraps up today at Caesar Rodney High. Finals are slated to start at 9 a.m.

• Former Seaford High baseball standout Derrik Gibson is in his 11th minor-league season. The 28-year-old is playing third base with Class AAA Albuquerque in the Colorado Rockies farm system.

Gibson is batting .275 with 15 extra-base hits, 25 runs scored and 16 RBI.

• Wesley College had 23 players named to the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference 25th Anniversary teams. The Wolverines left the PAC in 2006. The league is now known as the Colonial States Athletic Conference.

Wesley had 10 players honored in golf alone. Then there was former Wolverine standout Nicky Benton (2001), who was named to anniversary teams in field hockey, basketball and softball.

• Wesley football rival Frostburg State was announced as a new member of the Mountain East Conference, pending its move up to NCAA Division II. The Bobcats are currently members of the New Jersey Athletic Conference in football with the Wolverines.

• Polytech High grad Joey Haass picked up a win for the Geneva Red Wings on Friday night. The University of Delaware righthander pitched two scoreless innings in relief, struck out five and lowered his ERA to 0.92.

• Former University of Delaware basketball standout Kory Holden has surfaced as a grad transfer at South Alabama. Including a redshirt year, he spent the last two seasons at South Carolina.

But Holden played in only 14 games in an injury-plagued season last winter, averaging just 3.4 points and 1.5 assists.

• Forty years after the idea for the Buffalo Stampede was first hatched at Brown’s Wyoming Tavern, the annual 5K/10K race will hold its post-race festivities at Brown’s this year.

The event is slated for July 21. Register is available online at www.active.com or www.ddsr.org/buffalo-stampede/.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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