Franklin’s Mathews readies for NBA draft night

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Franklin’s Garrison Mathews will face the culmination of 17 years of hard work in a single night.

Mathews, a recent Lipscomb University graduate who scored a Division I-era school record 2,478 points for the Bisons, is hoping to hear his name called during today’s NBA draft.

“I didn’t really dedicate my life to basketball, I started playing when I was 5, but I was a football player growing up and in high school,” said Mathews, a Franklin High School graduate. “I didn’t start focusing my full attention to basketball until I got to college.”

That dedication showed as Mathews etched his name into Lipscomb’s record books. On top of being the school’s leader in scoring in the DI era, he is the leader in field goals attempted (1,693), 3-pointers made (360), 3-pointers attempted (963), free throws made (608) and free throws attempted (771). He was one of only three players in the nation in Division I to average at least 20 points per game (20.8) as a senior and further displayed his scoring prowess by netting a career-high 44 points at North Carolina State in the National Invitational Tournament quarterfinals. 

Former Lipscomb head coach Casey Alexander admitted that Mathews impressed him with his shooting ability during scouting trips in high school, but Alexander also saw a versatile player in those early days, when Mathews still played football as well. 

“Even back then, he had great range,” said Alexander, who recently became Belmont’s head basketball coach. “He had the ability to go out and make several shots in a game. He has good lift. He has good, consistent form. And he has great confidence, which is also the mark of a great shooter.

“He is not just a shooter. If he can get north and south and play with a head of steam, he is pretty good. He gets fouled a lot. That versatility is what makes him such a good offensive player.”

Lipscomb made it to the NIT championship game for the first time in school history in April. The Bisons were taken down by Texas, falling 81-66 at Madison Square Garden in New York. 

“Personally, the tournament showed that I could play against tougher talent and major teams,” Mathews said. “This really helped me out and allowed others and myself to see me in a different light. … I could go out there and compete.”

With this reaffirmed confidence, Mathews was ready to set out and make his NBA hopes a reality. He hired Chris Patrick of the Sports Law Group as his agent.

“(Patrick) was the only agent that truly believed that I could make the NBA I felt like everyone else was just BS-ing me,” Mathews said. “It’s all business at this level. Everybody’s out for themselves and is trying to grind to get paid.”

The 6-foot-5 shooting guard has spent his spring cruising around the country to try out for various NBA teams. This list includes the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards.

“These workouts are super physical and super fast-paced, also they’re mentally grueling,” Mathews said. “If you aren’t in great shape, you won’t make it.”

Mathews said each workout is a little different based on the team, but they all include a mix of conditioning drills, weight-lifting tests, scrimmages against other top players and typically end in a shooting drill.

“The competition is on a whole other level from college,” he said. “I thought the jump from high school to college was huge, but the jump from college to the pros was even bigger. 

“Everybody can play, and everybody is the best player on their teams. Plus,  they’re going after each other. I mean, they are trying to compete for a spot. It does get scrappy, but it’s fun.”

Each tryout also included an interview process, during which team officials ask about everything from past actions to future goals. The whole process is conducted in front of the team’s entire front office, head coaches and general managers. 

Mathews said nerves weren’t a factor for him, and it all comes down to a willingness to compete.

“I mean, I’m not going to back down from anybody. I go in knowing I’m the best competitor in the gym,” Mathews said. “If you go in scared, you’re going to get eaten up.”

Matthews has spent the spring working with his college trainer, Jordan Romine, in preparation for the draft. Romine helped Mathews transform into a lethal shooter who finished his Lipscomb career knocking down 44.6 percent from the field. Mathews said he has the ability to be a strong two-way player, but his defense is something he and Romine are working on together as well.

“He just elevated my game to another level, and I can’t really repay him enough for what he’s done for me,” Mathews said. “He’s a real hard-working guy who just wants to help people, and he’s got a heart for making people better and helping them become the best they can be on and off the court.”

With the full weight of draft night on Mathews’ shoulders, he finds it best to focus on the process instead of the end results.

“I try to think about the process and what I can do each day to get better and get closer to making my dreams a reality,” he said. “I come into the gym every day to work my hardest, so everything will work out in the end.”

ESPN projects Matthews as a top-100 pick and potential second-rounder.

“I don’t take this opportunity for granted,” Mathews said. “I just want to get on a team and have the chance to work my ass off and show them that I’m being the best I can be for the team.”

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