MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There aren’t many players like Emmitt Matthews Jr. in the present era of college sports.
Current transfer rules have allowed student-athletes to move from institution to institution relatively freely throughout their careers. Coaches, like Bob Huggins, have used this to their advantage as they bring in players on their second, third, or even fourth teams.
Matthews is different. Like several of his teammates at WVU, Matthews left the program for a new team after the 2020-21 season. Unlike his teammates, he was one of the few athletes to return to the program.
The fifth-year forward was clear about his rationale: he knew where he wanted to be. 10 games into the season, it’s clear that he meant every word.
“He wants to be here,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “He wants to be here and certainly wants to be a part of what we get done here.”
Matthews didn’t return to Morgantown as the exact same player he was when he left. Huggins has described him since his early days as a “basketball junkie” — always watching film, learning about the game and adding to his arsenal.
This season, he has taken that experience to a new level as arguably the most important player on the team, playing the most minutes of any Mountaineer by a large margin.
Part of that, he says, is due to the confidence that has come with his experience.
“I just think, you know, that it’s my fifth year of college,” Matthews said. “I feel like I’ve been around the world and back with basketball and now I feel like there isn’t anything that’s going to get in the way of me playing my game.”
It doesn’t hurt that he has grown to become one of WVU’s biggest scoring threats. Matthews is one of WVU’s four double-digit scorers this season and is the most efficient three-point shooter in the lineup through 10 games.
That, again, is no accident. Matthews was always an effective shooter, even going back his first season of college hoops. Since leaving the Mountaineers in 2021, though, he said he “got in the lab” and worked to perfect his shot.
This work has provided tangible results. Matthews has made 48.4 percent of his three-point shots and helped lift WVU over UAB from behind the arc after suffering an early injury scare in the physical game.
“He has really shot the ball well, and he has shot the ball much better than what he shot it before,” Huggins said. “He spent a lot of time fixing things with it. When it looked like they were about ready to make a run, he’s the guy who made big shots for us.”