By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky got its 2015 basketball recruiting off to a big start today when Chicago combo guard Charles Matthews announced he would play for the Wildcats.
He is rated as the No. 12 overall prospect in the 2015 class — and No. 1 shooting guard — by 247Sports Composite. He picked Kentucky over Illinois, Kansas, Marquette and Michigan State just three days after receiving a visit from UK coach John Calipari Sunday.
The 6-5 junior guard, who thanked his family and coaches for “keeping me updating on reality,” took an unofficial visit to Kentucky for its alumni charity game in September, but attended Michigan State’s preseason madness event. He thanked every coach who took time to watch him play and recruited him.
Matthews had ties to UK as he plays for the Meanstreets AAU travel team. That’s the same team former Calipari players Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis played for and 2014 UK signee Tyler Ulis — who is friends with Matthews — plays for the team, too.
Chicago recruiting analyst Daniel Poneman, who first touted Davis as a big-time player and also has consistently praised the talent of Ulis, was a “bit surprised” that Matthews committed to Kentucky so early even though he’s been a UK target since getting his scholarship offer last June.
“I think Charles Matthews has a chance to be a big-time player and one day play in the NBA,” said Poneman. “But I think maybe he is a year behind developmentally compared to other prospects at this age. If he was a sophomore right now, I would say he is top 10 in the country. But being a junior, you would expect him to be more dominant in Chicago and tearing through other guys in state and he’s not done that. But that’s not to say he’s not a fantastic prospect.”
Poneman noted that Matthews’ brother, Dominique, made the all-state team and Charles Matthews didn’t. Dominique Hawkins also was St. Rita’s leading scorer two years in a row and Poneman once watched him score “39 or 40” in a game compared to Charles that he has “not seen put up more than 16-20 points per game.”
However, Poneman says not to think he doubts Charles Matthews’ ability.
“Charles is a phenomenal prospect who could be the prototypical NBA combo-guard,” Poneman said. “He can do it all on offense and defense, but he has a ways to go before he can contribute as a freshman. But he could be similar to Tyler Ulis and be there two or three years and give you a high character kid, a glue kid who does not need a lot of shots. Maybe somebody like a DeAndre Liggins/Darius Miller type of player.
“He is no James Young offensively. But he can play the one or two. He could fill in wherever he’s needed and not complain about doing it. I don’t think his commitment will scare away any top five players if coach Cal is coming after them, but he’s a really, really good player. Don’t doubt that.”
Scout.com lists his strengths as “ability create, ballhandling and mid-range game” while citing “defense, explosiveness and strength” as areas for improvement
Here’s what the Scout.com recruiting breakdown says about Matthews: “His game starts with his jump shot. Matthews has a very smooth release and an excellent follow through, and he doesn’t need much space to get a clean look. He loves to dribble into his shot and is very comfortable both from behind the 3-point line and medium-range. Matthews is a fine dribbler who drives to the bucket on occasion as well, but he isn’t truly an explosive athlete. That said, additional strength should help.”