School: Texas A&M International University
Hometown: Edmonds (Meadowdale High School)
What he did: Averaged 12.0 points and made 7 of 10 shots in two games, including the Dustdevils’ Heartland Conference title-clinching win over Dallas Baptist. The 6-foot-10 starting center averages 12.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game for TAMIU (21-7).
What’s next: Matteson and the Dustdevils play host to the Heartland Conference tournament this week, beginning with a game tonight against either Texas-Permian Basin or Arkansas-Fort Smith. Those two teams were scheduled to square off in a play-in game Thursday night.
Way out here in Everett, we don’t hear much about Texas A&M International. Let’s start with the success you’ve been having on the basketball court. What kind of a season has it been?
We are first in our conference at (21-7), and for the first time in our school’s history we get to host a conference tournament right here.
What’s it been like to be a part of that?
It’s amazing; it really is. We won the conference last year, but to be able to do it twice and be able to host the conference tournament is something I never expected.
What kind of crowds are you expecting?
Actually, a pretty good crowd. With all these teams coming down, we’re already hearing of party buses. So they’re expecting a pretty big crowd. We usually get 400 to 600 per game, but we’re looking at sellout crowds for the tournament. I don’t think we’ve ever sold out.
You’ve been a two-year starter there. Has this been your best season?
It has been, of my college career. We had a post player last year who was a really good inside presence. He graduated, and they were looking for me to step up.
So tell us about the school. Where is it? And what’s it like there?
It’s in Laredo, Texas, which is a border town. It’s really nice here, weather-wise. It’s seventy-five today (Tuesday), and it’s supposed to be in the 80s the rest of the week. It’s a small town, but it’s pretty nice; it really is.
Do you ever get over the border? Are there any cool towns in Mexico to visit?
It’s pretty dangerous over there. A) We are not allowed to go over there, and, B) I wouldn’t want to.
And you transferred from Alaska-Fairbanks. Was it too cold for you?
Yeah. Too cold. And once my brother (Colin) graduated, there wasn’t really any reason to stay.
Is the Canadian border up there as scary as the border in Laredo?
(Laughs) Not quite as scary, no.
How did you stumble onto Texas A&M International?
I was going to transfer to the University of Alaska Anchorage, and then their assistant coach (Shane Rinner) got the head-coaching job down here — and he’s the one who was recruiting me. He said, “You could either play at Anchorage or come down here and play with me.” He’s a great salesman, and he wins everywhere he goes. You can’t argue with that.
Do people think you play in College Station and ask you how Elston Turner is doing?
Yes. Wherever we go, people see our sweatshirts and say, “You play for A&M, that’s so awesome.” We’re like, “No, we don’t play at A&M.” I’ve even signed a few autographs because it takes too long to explain.
Did you sign your name? Or Elston Turner’s name?
I signed my name. They probably didn’t even look at it until they got home.
I’m focusing on the A&M part of the name here, but is your school an ag school?
It’s just like a Division II sister school. There’s a bunch of them. There’s Texas A&M-Kingsville, there’s Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
You mentioned your older brother, Colin, who is now playing professionally in Australia. Are you planning to join him on the court over there one day?
Oh, yeah, for sure. As soon as I finish here, the goal is to go overseas, yeah.
Not necessarily. I’ll go wherever I get an opportunity. But it would be great to play with him again.
What kind of a career is he having there?
A real good one. For the first team he played for, he averaged 35 points in that season.
Thirty-five points a game?
Yeah, he was ridiculous.
Is he that good? Or is the competition not up to snuff?
It’s a mixture of he’s that good and … it’s good competition, but he was clearly better than them.
How tall is he?
He’s 6-7. He’s more of a guard, though.
Can you take him yet?
Yeah, I can.
Just by posting him up?
Yeah, just posting him up.
So you would average 40 a game over there?
I don’t want to say I’d average 40. (Laughs) I’d have to get used to the system.
I found a YouTube video of you doing a slam dunk contest. Now, I can’t dunk, but I’m only giving you about a six for the first one. The second, however, which was a 360, one-hander, gets about a nine. Does that sound about right?
Yeah. What was the first one?
Just a basic dunk. I can’t even remember if you went in with one hand or two.
Oh, yeah. A two-handed reverse dunk.
Was that just to get warmed up?
Basically. They said: ‘Do three dunks.’ I was like: ‘Three dunks? I’ve only got three dunks.’
Did you win the contest?
No. I got second.
Did they ever have any dunk contests at Meadowdale?
Um, no, they did not. I would’ve lost it, though.
Really? Who would’ve won?
I don’t know. I couldn’t really dunk that well in high school, though.
How old were you when you first dunked?
It was either my sophomore or junior year — or the summer in between.
How tall were you then?
About 6-4 or 6-5.
Were you 6-10 as a senior?
No. When I graduated, I was 6-8.
What schools were looking at you?
Just Fairbanks, basically.
After you dunked for the first time, was your first thought: Wow, this might take me to Laredo, Texas?
(Laughs) No, no. Before three years ago, I’d never even heard of the place.
Well, thanks for doing this. And stay on this side of border.
(Laughs) Yeah, I will. Thank you very much.
Scott M. Johnson, Herald Writer