The newest member of the Providence College men’s basketball program can talk about an experience that’s vastly different than most freshmen who have entered the NCAA Transfer Portal.
For starters, Matteus Case never set foot on the college campus that once upon a time was deemed his ideal landing spot. He was ticketed to join the ranks of the Ivy League, specifically Penn. The Ivies never took the court during the COVID-impacted 2020-21 season, hence Case remained at home and attended school virtually. For him, home is Toronto.
“It was very difficult. Basketball is what I do. It’s my life,” said Case, a guard who’s listed at 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds. “As long I can remember, I went to school and had a basketball season.”
The wait – one that must seem and feel like an eternity – is just about over. Roughly two weeks after putting his name in the portal, Case last week informed Friar head coach Ed Cooley of his intention to suit up for a Big East school. On Tuesday night, Case shared the news via his personal Twitter account.
“That’s always an exciting phone call for the player and the coach. Good news on both ends,” said Case.
“We are looking forward to Matteus being a Friar next season,” Cooley said in a statement. “Matteus competed at a very high level in high school and he has experience with the Canadian National Team. We feel that he will be a great fit in the Friar family.”
Reached Wednesday, Case said he hopes to arrive on PC’s campus by the end of this week or the start of next week.
“I’ve been waiting months and months,” he said when asked about finally becoming a full-fledged college basketball player with four years of eligibility.
Case wasn’t in the portal for long before hearing from the Friars.
“Once they saw my name, they gave me a call really quick,” he said.
The assistant on Cooley’s staff who Case primarily dealt with was Ivan Thomas, who is familiar with members of Case’s AAU program, the Northern Kings. The interaction between Case and Cooley resonated with the youngster as he narrowed things down from a list of 15 schools that expressed interest in him after electing to move on from Penn.
“[Cooley] kept speaking about how the basketball team is like a family to him. He told me that everyone who’s graduated from Providence from the basketball team has a diploma in his office. He made me feel at home and comfortable. He’s someone I want to play for,” said Case. “This was my goal going into the portal … get a school like [PC]. I was very happy it worked out.”
Asked what kind of player Providence is getting, Case replied, “I’m definitely a shooter … a knockdown three-point shooter. That’s the biggest thing I do on the court. I feel I’m an unselfish player. I feel that Friar Nation is getting someone who just wants to win basketball games. When the team has success, every individual is going to have success. My biggest thing is I want to come help the team win some games.”
Case verballed to Penn in April 2020. It was a decision that was made at a time when Case was wrapping up his senior year at Chaminade College Prep (located in St. Louis) and the coronavirus pandemic had reduced college coaches to rely on Zoom calls as the primary means for conducting recruiting business. While he felt a strong connection with Penn head coach Steve Donahue, the fact that the Ivy League pulled the plug on the basketball season played a hand in opting to test the NCAA waters.
“I felt like I needed something new basketball-wise. I really did like what Penn had to offer. I wanted to see what was out there and explore my options,” said Case when the subject of moving on from the Quakers was broached.
Case attended Chaminade for the final two years of high school after making a name for himself in Toronto. Known more as an off-guard, he signed on for more ballhandling duties after Chaminade didn’t have a true point guard during his senior year, one that was capped with the 2020 St. Louis District title. At Chaminade, he averaged 10.1 ppg while shooting 34 percent from three-point territory.
Chaminade’s list of distinguished hoop alums includes current Celtics star Jayson Tatum and the Wizards’ Bradley Beal. Case has spent time in the company of both.
“That doesn’t happen at many high schools. I thought that was pretty cool,” said Case.
Looking back, Case’s time with Team Canada during the 2017 FIBA Under-16 Americas Championship proved to be an eye-opener as well as a window into the future – from the three-week training camp where he squared off with his fellow countrymen to competing against high-end talent in Argentina.
“It made me understand just how far you can go with basketball and how hard it is to play it at a high level,” he said.
With no freshman season at Penn, Case set out to make the most of the unexpected break from actual competition. The gym used by the Toronto-based Northern Kings became a spot that served as Case’s unofficial home away from home.
“It was difficult not being able to play games, but workout-wise, I was in the gym every single day … tightening my handle and making sure my shot is always consistent. I felt that my game really improved,” he said.
With the NCAA granting permission for in-person recruiting to resume, Case is aware that he could have scheduled visits before arriving at a decision. He also knew that timing is everything.
“I had to make my decision and go. Summer classes are starting and I want to get there and work out with the team,” he said.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03