Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Positive turns in Mobley's D1 journey
By Christian Bradley
Former St. Peter-Marian guard and ESPN Boston All-State selection Matt Mobley made his college choice on Saturday, deciding during his official visit to Central Connecticut State University that it was the school for him.
A 6-foot-3 guard known for his offensive versatility, high-rising dunks, and defensive instincts, Mobley burst onto the scene last year for SPM, leading the Guardians all the way to the MIAA Division 1 Central championship game, before falling to St. John’s of Shrewsbury. Hungry for a scholarship and unsatisfied with his recruitment, he made the decision to go to Worcester Academy for a postgraduate year. This summer, he played AAU with Blackstone Valley Chaos and Bay State Flash, where he made himself one of the most talked-about players in New England.
“Since I didn’t really have any Division 1 interest, I played this summer like I had something to prove,” Mobley said, “I wanted to show people that I can play Division 1 college basketball.
Marcus Watson, the head coach at St. Peter-Marian and an influential figure whom Mobley calls his “second father,” saw the potential in Matt from the time he was a young player. The Guardians' varsity squad was just 1-19 during Matt’s freshman year, but a lasting memory for Watson is the one game that St. Peter-Marian won, thanks in large part to Mobley’s heroics during clutch-time.
Down a point with a couple minutes left in a bout with Shrewsbury High, the lanky freshman pulled up from three feet behind the arc and knocked down the long jumper to give the Guardians the lead, for good.
“He has that it factor,” said Watson, “He isn’t afraid to take that big shot, because he has the confidence in himself.”
SPM had three losing seasons in the first three years of Mobley’s career, and that was a big reason why he never bolted for prep school, contrary to the exodus of New England players going to prep schools early in their high school careers. With the Guardians being a lesser-known program and a rather “untraditional” power, he wanted to finish what he felt that he and his teammates had already started.
“I wanted to have a strong senior year and graduate with the people who I started my career with, so I decided to stay and pursue a post-graduate year afterwards,” he said.
While Mobley maintains that some of his greatest memories include leading SPM to a win with 35 points over intra-city rival Holy Name (“the crowd was crazy that night,” he recalls), scoring his 1000th point, and leading the Guardians to the D1 Central title game, Watson has a different approach. He has known Mobley, because of Matt’s relationship with the Watson sons, since the star guard was nine years old, calling Mobley his fourth son and comically pointing out that he would often spend weeks at the Watson house. In becoming part of the family, Matt had chores that he needed to do to contribute to the household.
“He was no guest at our house,” Watson said with a laugh.
With all that, Watson doesn’t look at Matt Mobley the basketball player, but instead Matt Mobley the person. His lasting memory of Mobley will be how much he matured over the course of his high school career.
“Since he was very young he always had eyes on him, and he didn’t know how to deal with that, so through the years he was shy, and I think some people falsely interpreted that as arrogance, or that Matt was standoffish,” Watson said. “That was just his coping mechanism, in my opinion. He is humble and I’m so proud of the way that he has matured in the way that he handles himself.
"He’s that kid who can play with the best players in the region, but then after that will spend time with my nephew, who idolizes him, talking to him or teaching him how to dribble a basketball. I’m proud of the way he’s handled adversity.”
Part of that adversity was making sure he took care of business in the classroom as well as on the court. Because of a poor grade in a class, Mobley was ineligible for the first half of his junior season, a year in which St. Peter-Marian finished one win shy of qualifying for districts. Despite that obstacle though, he went on to be an honor roll student in his final six quarters as a student at St. Peter-Marian; another fact, Watson says, that is a testament to his maturity.
A different type of adversity was the very fact that few athletes from central Mass. have the opportunity to go on to play Division 1 college hoops. Over the past few years, Worcester natives like Naadir Tharpe (Kansas) and Cedric Kuakumensah (Brown), along St. John’s center Matt Labove (Dartmouth), have set the standard for hoops excellence in Worcester County. Now that he is part of a small circle of hoopers from the area to earn a Division 1 scholarship, Mobley is excited to even be mentioned.
“Of course I think about it,” he said, “It feels good to know that I’m part of a select few from CMass to make it to D1 basketball. To be mentioned in the same group as Naadir, and other guys like Cedric is just a great feeling. To hear my name with theirs is fantastic.”
As previously mentioned, he will spend this year teaming up with defending Gatorade Player of the Year Rene Castro at Worcester Academy, but in moving on to a new opportunity, he insists that in thanking those who have been there for him, he won’t forget where he came from.