Pandemic cuts short college hoops career

Ivy League cancels winter sports; Former BHS standout left to wonder 'what if?'

By MIKE SCANDURA
Posted 12/16/20

Fortunately for the Brown University’s basketball team, Barrington’s Matt DeWolf didn’t decide to morph into the second coming of Paul McCartney who’s arguably the …

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Pandemic cuts short college hoops career

Ivy League cancels winter sports; Former BHS standout left to wonder 'what if?'

Posted

Fortunately for the Brown University’s basketball team, Barrington’s Matt DeWolf didn’t decide to morph into the second coming of Paul McCartney who’s arguably the world’s greatest bass guitar player.

“I wasn’t into sports growing up. I was a musician," said DeWolf, a 6-9, 250-pound forward who’s been a starter for most of his collegiate career.

“I only started playing basketball in the eighth grade. The first organized team I was on was the middle school team.

"I was very tall and I was led into (basketball) naturally. I’ve loved it ever since."

DeWolf’s “love” for the game is manifested in his ability/desire to do several of the little things which don’t show up in a box score but are every bit as important as scoring points.

“We evaluate our players in a lot of ways,” said Brown head coach Mike Martin, who resides in Barrington. “You have your traditional skills that jump off the page which Matt works hard on to impress.

“But he boxes out. He rebounds and executes the offensive and defensive game plans. He sets screens. He’s a low-post scorer and a high-post passer. He’s been very receptive to every ounce of coaching we’ve given him. That’s allowed him to play a lot of minutes in his career. Overall, what he does has contributed to our team’s success.”

Brown’s success over the previous two seasons has translated into a respectable 35-24 record.

The fact DeWolf isn’t the type of player who will light up a scoreboard (his career scoring average is only 3.0 ppg.), the skills he does possess give him a great deal of satisfaction.

“I’ve always been characterized as having a blue-collar work ethic,” he said. “Things that don’t make it into the stat book are my specialties. My favorite thing is to set a screen. I’ve never ducked any contact. Even though you don’t see it in the stat book, I’ll do anything for the team.”

And that doesn’t just include what DeWolf does in games.

“Everyone hates playing pickup ball with me because they know what I can do,” he said. “I like being the big dude who sets screens and creates action on offense. I get no better satisfaction when I set a screen and a guy hits me and falls to the ground.

“Scoring hasn’t been my role on the team. Doing the little things are what I love doing.”

DeWolf split his secondary career between Barrington High School and Northfield Mount Hermon.

As a senior at Mount Hermon, he averaged 10.4 ppg. and 6.3 rpg. In addition, he qualified for the Academic Honor roll and earned NEPSAC AAA All-New England honors.

While at Barrington High, he played a key role in the Eagles compiling a 32-2 regular-season league record. As a result, he was recruited by schools like Quinnipiac, Dartmouth, Lafayette and Lehigh.

“Obviously we had all of his academic records from Barrington High and Northfield Mount Herman,” said Martin. “He fit our academic profile. We were really impressed with his work ethic and his determination to improve.

“My staff and I had seen him going back to his sophomore year at Barrington High. The improvement he made from the time he entered his sophomore year at Barrington High and Northfield Mount Hermon was really impressive. It was reflective of how hard he worked.”

That being said, there was more to Brown’s being able to recruit DeWolf than his academic record and his prowess on the court.

“I think out university’s reputation, and certainly its prestige, were the key factors,” said Martin. “I also think our location didn’t hurt. I think it was Brown University being the special place it is drew Matt.

“Our staff did our best to present Matt with the opportunities he had at Brown. It as a key factor in Matt’s decision and allowed his parents (Hank and Cheryl) to have confidence in his decision.”

Another person who saw DeWolf play at Mount Hermon and who knows what it takes academically and athletically to play at an Ivy League school is one of the Bears all-time leading scorers and current Brown radio announcer Rusty Tyler ’67.

“I had an opportunity to see Matt play when he was at Mount Hermon and witnessed the physical transformation of his physical appearance and the development of his talents after he arrived at Brown,” said Tyler. “He coupled an extraordinary work ethic with superb guidance from the Brown coaching and training staff to become a Division I starter as a freshman.

“He boxed out effectively, rebounded well at both ends of the floor, was a real presence in the lane on defense and set solid screens for his teammates at the other end of the floor.”

Even though valuable experience can be gained by attending out-of-state colleges, DeWolf left zero doubt regarding why he chose Brown.

“I chose Brown because I wanted to stay close to home which would allow my parents to support me and come to every game,” he said. “I love Thayer Street and Brown is amazing.

“Academically (DeWolf is majoring in business) it made a lot of sense in terms of choosing classes. I felt I could manage academics and basketball at Brown.”

Even though DeWolf relished his time at Barrington High, he knew he had to make a decision if he wanted, as the cliché’ goes, to take his game to a higher level.

“I had to get out of Barrington in order to be recruited by Division I schools,” he said. “I chose Northfield because I wanted the Ivy League route.

“Northfield has the best combination of academics and basketball in the country. That went in mind with what I wanted to accomplish with my college career.”

In retrospect, DeWolf had the best of both worlds because he came under the guidance of two highly-respected coaches.

“I think Matt played for good coaches, Pat Sullivan at Barrington and John Carroll at Northfield Mount Herman,” said Martin. “Both helped prepare him for the college game.

“At Barrington he had a leading, starring role which was a key in his development. Playing at Mount Herman not only in practice but also in games exposed him to the highest level of competition. That league is the best in the country.”

Playing for two schools helped DeWolf in different ways.

“At Barrington I developed my confidence,” he said. “I had a huge role on the team along with Corey Daugherty. We were winning a lot of games.

“The biggest role model was my head coach at Northfield, John Carroll. He really developed me into the person I am today. I think of him as a second father. He’s an incredibly hard coach to play for and is very tough. At the same time, you want to play your best for him and perform for him.”

DeWolf his fond memories of his time at Barrington High.

“I would say the most memorable experience at Barrington was when we made it to the state finals in my junior year (2014-15) and lost to La Salle,” he said. “It was a great experience playing at the Ryan Center. We knew that was our last year together.

“Our core included (seniors) Corey Daugherty and Kevin Mannix. It was our last hurrah. That last experience was really memorable.”

What won’t be memorable is DeWolf’s senior season because several weeks ago the Ivy League voted to cancel winter sports.

“I would have expected him to be a senior leader who really sets the tone with his work ethic, his experience and his being a great teammate,” said Martin. “We know we could have counted on all that from Matt.”

DeWolf had imagined what his senior season might be like. All he can do now is think “What if?”

“What’s disappointed me the most is I’m not going to finish the way I had imagined,” he said. “I worked the hardest I’ve ever worked and sacrificed the most over the summer. I’m a completely different player than I was I year go.

“I’m disappointed I’m not going to be able to show my teammates and fans who I am now.”

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