The Rhode Island Rams (20-3, 12-0) continue to pile up victories – 15 straight – and pile on momentum as they surge towards March. Dan Hurley’s club hasn’t lost since December 6th at Alabama, where they were without this fella, senior standout and one half of the “Batman” tandem, E.C. Matthews.
Chris DiSano, analyst for Atlantic10.com and Yurview contributor sat down with the 6-5 Matthews on Friday night to cover many bases. On the season, Matthews is averaging 13.5ppg and 4rpg while shooting 83% from the stripe for the first-place Rams.
“We’re just unselfish. We really care about each other and we don’t care about who gets the shine because everyone deserves it.”
Chris DiSano: You and your teammates are currently on quite a roll. The season is far from finished, but what’s your assessment of it to date and how does the team remain grounded and focused?
E.C. Matthews: To be honest, this might sound a little greedy, but we just want more. It’s that simple. We got a taste of it last year and we just want to get back to that stage and go further. Just doing what we did last year, we have confidence and a feel that we can go out there and make it even better. We come in every day with a game plan, we stick to it, and we work hard. We have great guard play and we feed off of that. You add that to the way we play defense and it’s hard to beat us.
CDD: You and teammate Jared Terrell are now referred to as Batman and Batman. Your thoughts?
Matthews: Last year when Hassy [Hassan Martin] was here, my best friend – shout out to Hass – it was Mario and Luigi… a Batman/Robin type thing. One day this season, Coach Hurley just said Batman and Batman in practice to describe me and JT. JT is having a great year – shout out to JT – and Coach called us that.
I like it, the media caught it, and we’re sticking with it.
CDD: Okay, you wrap up a game. Take fans through what’s next over the following couple of days leading up to the next one. What’s the normal game prep?
Matthews: We’ll finish a game and the next day will be light. It will be a mental day. We’ll watch film on a team – for instance Richmond – the guys, their individual videos, and then the team plays. We’ll go over the plays, the coaches will have a game plan, and then we’ll do some light work/shooting. The next day, that’s when we get on the court and get after it… and we’ll keep going at the game plan for Tuesday.
CDD: It’s been an oft-discussed topic but deserves continued mention. What are your thoughts on the “pass up a good shot to get a great shot” unselfish nature of this team?
Matthews: We’re just unselfish. We really care about each other and we don’t care about who gets the shine because everyone deserves it. We just know it’s karma. It comes back. Anybody can have a great game and it goes to showcase the depth that we have. It’s not a one-man-band. It makes us a great team.
CDD: We’ve chatted many times over your time here in Kingston. Which area of your game has grown the most in the past four-plus years?
Matthews: My patience. When things aren’t going well, just trusting the process. I used to be so consumed in having everything right away and not comfortable with playing bad games. I’ve realized it’s a marathon. I never know when it could click and the great thing is, I don’t even think I’ve started to peak yet… so you never know. God’s got a plan and I stick to working hard.
CDD: What differences have you noticed this year, team-wise, in being the hunted?
Matthews: I feel like last year we were the hunted to a degree and we didn’t really handle it well. We weren’t really comfortable with it. This year, guys are older and have been through it, we like it and feed off of it. Like we talked about earlier — we want more. We want to see how big this can really get. We feed off of it, Coach Hurley feeds off of that, and we look at him like we’ve got to do the same. And we love it.
CDD: To what do you attribute the unit’s poise?
Matthews: Just having experience developed over the years. It trickles down through the rest of the team. They have no choice but to pick up on it. Just being older… seniors and experience win big games.
CDD: Defense remains a staple. What’s the most crucial ingredient on that side of the ball?
Matthews: Communicating is extremely important. It doesn’t matter how good individual defenders can be, it can be broken apart if teams don’t talk. So being one of the older guys, we know how serious and important it is to communicate. It’s talking that makes our defense so much better. And that, combined with how we get after the ball and pick up players 94′ — it wears teams down over the course of the game.
— J.V. (@JV401) February 10, 2018
CDD: Lots of press and “noise” about this team floating around. As players, you pay attention to any of it?
Matthews: We don’t. The only way we really know is through Coach Hurley – he obviously has to know about those things because it’s good for the school, recognition, and things like that. But we don’t look for it, we don’t feed off of it, we don’t even really care about it. We have tunnel vision right now and we want to see how big this can get. We think it can be very special this year.
CDD: What’s your perspective on the growing fan base and crowds since you’ve been here and even as this year continues to unfold?
Matthews: Being here from the start of it when there were many empty seats, it just goes to show you how much we’ve improved, how Coach Hurley and staff have improved, how the fans have improved as well. They ride with us and support us through good and bad and we thank them. We need that and we feed off of big crowds so, the more we keep winning, it will get even bigger – although I don’t know how [because we’re selling out]. But they’ll figure it out [laughs].