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November 4, 2011Landing George Matthews was considered a huge coup for former Utah basketball coach Jim Boylen. In fact, Boylen considered Matthews one of the final missing pieces for the system he had been trying to piece together during his tenure.
As an athletic, long and rangy wing, Matthews was regarded as a well-rounded player who could also score. After Boylen's dismissal, rumors swirled and questions were raised about whether or not Matthews would still become a Ute. In fact, Matthews had been vocal about the fact that Boylen had been a major factor in his decision to come to Utah.
Immediately after the dismissal, UteZone caught up with Matthews to get a reaction.
"Obviously I was disappointed to hear about Coach Boylen, I wanted to play for him. I love Salt Lake City, and I love the guys that are going to be around me and that's still going to be there," said Matthews of Boylen, who recruited him but was later fired. "So that part of it hasn't changed, so that's all good and a big part of it, but it's also a little late for me to think about doing anything else or trying to re-open my recruitment."
In the interview conducted on April 4, 2011, Matthews also expressed optimism and enthusiasm for what he had heard about new coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Today, Matthews is a Ute and three months into his collegiate basketball career, he doesn't have to wonder whether he made the right decision. He knows it.
"I'm loving it. I love the team. We all get along great, and everyone works hard, and that's ultimately what we need," Matthews said. "Coming here was definitely the right decision for me."
With thirteen new players on a seventeen man roster, Larry Krystkowiak's team has it's work cut out for them as it heads to the Pac-12, a tradition-rich basketball conference. Yet optimism, and an infectious enthusiasm abound within the program, mixed responsibly with tempered, reasonable expectations.
"We've only been together for three months now, so the gel isn't quite there. But it'll get there. We're putting in the hours and doing the work in the gym, being around each other and playing basketball and learning each other," Matthews announced. "There's no choice. Other teams have a bunch of returning starters, and we have one or two, so no one knows what to expect. We're just working as hard as we can at being a team."
Further referencing the four remaining holdovers from last year's squad Jason Washburn, Chris Hines, David Foster and Josh Watkins, Matthews had nothing but praise, and appreciation for the fact that they remained with the team.
"We've got some great seniors with Wash, Dave, Chris and Jig. That's exactly what we need. You have to have somebody to follow and nobody else was here to show us how," explained Matthews. "These guys were the best of the team last year. They were the ones who carried the team, so for them to come back and provide us with senior leadership is huge. It's just what we need and I respect those guys for that."
Still a bright spot, and one of the most highly-anticipated newcomers, Matthews is behind where he had hoped to be, due to an off-season ankle injury which side-lined him for six months.
"I'm a little set-back because I broke my foot, so I've only been playing for a month and a half, or two months now, and I was out for six months," Matthews explained. "It's really hindering my game and it's why I moved to the four, and not the three."
Matthews cites numerous positives about the Runnin' Ute basketball program, chief among them new head basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak.
"Our strength, I would say, is that we have a great coach. I love Coach Larry. He's a player's coach. He gets on you, and that's exactly what we need," Matthews praised his new coach. "I love his style of coaching. It's kind of laid-back, but at times, if you're not working hard, he'll get on you. I think ultimately that's what every player would love to have."