By LARRY VAUGHT
Sometimes when a player transfers, it works out best for everybody.
That’s what seems to have happened with Michigan sophomore Charles Matthews, who was named the most outstanding player in the regional after scoring 17 points in a win over Florida State that put Michigan into the Final Four.
The Chicago native spent one year at Kentucky playing behind his high school friend Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray. He was ranked as the nation’s 59th best player when he signed with UK and had finished second to Villanova’s Jalen Brunson in voting for Illinois Mr. Basketball. But he averaged just 0.9 points and 7.9 minutes per game during the final 24 games of that freshman season.
When Kentucky added Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox for what would have been his sophomore season, he transferred to Michigan and sat out last year.
“Very happy for @1CMatthews for being named the West Region’s most outstanding player and making the Final Four. A terrific player and a great young man,” Kentucky coach John Calipari posted on Twitter about Matthews.
Matthews’ dream when he came to UK was to win a national title. Now he gets the chance to play in a Final Four that Ulis, Murray, Fox and Monk didn’t.
“Here’s a kid that was so highly recruited, and Michigan didn’t recruit him at all,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “I had no knowledge of him until his high school coach called me after he had decided he was going to transfer. For him to come in and just buy in, I’m talking 1,000 percent, to culture, to individual workouts, scouting reports, to all the things that sometimes guys who are recruited so highly have a hard time buying into.
“So many times they’ve been told they’re the greatest, and now you say, no, these are weaknesses we’re going to work on. These are blind spots. There has been none of that. He is just trying to get better. He really was struggling in January to understand what his role would be and what he should do. Now he’s got a pretty good defined role right now. I can’t wait to work with him this week, and then over the summer and next year as well.”
Matthews said he spent a lot of time running to the top of the bleacher during his transfer year when he would make a turnover in practice.
“But I stayed with it. Coach stayed on me. He continued to believe in me, and that continued to help my confidence grow. My teammates believe in me, and I believe in them. So it’s just been a special feeling,” Matthews said.
Michigan has now won 13 straight games going into Saturday’s Final Four matchup against Loyola, the tourney’s Cinderella.
“We don’t get caught up in the win streak that we’re on. Like most of the guys, we didn’t even know we were on a 13-game win streak. We just take everything one day at a time and we stay connected through it all. When you have guys like that who are truly your brothers, anything’s possible,” Matthew said. “We have a great fan base. The support they show us, it boosts us up, and we’re so thankful for the whole Michigan families.”
However, Matthews admitted he did not know about Sister Jean, the national celebrity now from Loyola?
“I don’t really know who she is. I don’t know who Sister Jean is, no disrespect,” he said.
It’s not because outside of a few Michigan fans, few knew much about Charles Matthews going into this season, either.