June 19, 2012

Gaz Goes One on One With Mathis Keita

At the conclusion of the interview I asked Mathis if there was anything he wanted his fans to know and he said, ” Go Zags.” He added more to that, but this is what sticks with me. This was indicative of how he really feels. He loved his time at Gonzaga, his fellow students, players, and the coaches.  

He had no complaints, really. It simply came down to the feeling that he would not be earning enough playing time. He was unhappy with where he was at this point in his career. There was, in his mind, still time to get back to doing what he wanted the most…and that was playing in live games. 

Could he have done better? He thought so.  He certainly hoped so. Was he simply not good enough? He considered this possibility too.  

Was any of this on the coaches? Maybe, but even to the extent that a small percentage might be, he ultimately felt it was up to himself to do better and impress the staff enough to earn playing time. He felt like he was patient, kept a good attitude, got along with everyone, played hard, and practiced the same. But, there was still that elusive playing time…

Now that we have talked about the end of the interview, let’s get to the Q&As. I recently caught up with Matis Keita in Paris, France. He is visiting his grandparents and will return to the U.S. sometime in August in preparation for his season at UIP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania). 

Gaz: Thank you for taking the time to let me ask you a few questions regarding your transfer and your plans going forward. 

Mathis: No problem. I have been looking forward to it. Sorry for the delay, but I wanted to know where I was going to be playing next year first.  

Gaz: I can appreciate that. It must be nice to finally know where you will be headed. I’ll ask you about that later but first, let’s get into the reason for your transfer. People are curious as to why you transferred. 

Mathis:  It was pretty much only one reason, playing time. I asked at the end of the year what my chances were of getting more playing time. They basically said I would probably play in most games but not like 30 or 20 minutes. I would mostly be a role player and that’s not what I wanted. I wanted a chance to play a lot more. 

Gaz: Did they ask if you would consider a red-shirt to keep you at G.U.? Did they talk about pulling your scholarship? 

Mathis: No, they did not realize how good the freshman would be last season, so they never asked. They did not try to take my scholarship. I could have stayed. It was just that I wanted to play more and I didn’t think it would happen.

Gaz: Do you feel that you had a fair chance at earning more playing time? 

Mathis: No, I didn’t think it was fair this past year. I didn’t get a chance to play much at all. Maybe I would have this year because a couple of players were leaving but that still might not have meant more playing time. 

Gaz: Your freshman season you did very well vs. Wake Forest and LMU. Why do you think your playing time declined after that? 

Mathis: Yeah, I played good but then we had that bad weekend where we lost two games on the road to Santa Clara and San Francisco and I think the coaches wanted to try something different. Marquise came in and started playing well so he got a lot of minutes. We started winning and I didn’t get another chance. 

Gaz: Did you take the change with Quise and subsequent winning to mean that the losses were on you in any way?  

Mathis: No, not really. How coach Few works is like either you play 30/35 minutes a game or none. I can’t play every game as well as I did against Xavier or Wake Forest. I did not play that well against San Francisco and I made some mistakes.  

Gaz: Is it hard to become confident when playing time is limited? Do you feel like coach Few has a short leash? 

Mathis: Basically, the more you play the more confidence you get, and the more confidence you get, the better you play. When you play you get that rhythm that helps you to get better. You also need the playing time because it helps you to have the confidence to knock down the shot. 

Gaz: So what happens when you sit on the bench and do not get to play, how does that affect you? 

Mathis: It just makes it more and more difficult because you don’t have any confidence. It was frustrating; especially when you play 30 minutes and do pretty well, then go down to zero. I have to say that it was tough. 

Gaz: Did you feel you could pull the trigger on an open shot? Or were you tentative at all? 

Mathis: Unfortunately, it was like I knew I would get one shot, you know? I was like, should I take it now, or should I wait. It wasn’t like I’m open I’ll shoot. It was like I’m going to get one shot, if I make it I’ll get five more minutes, if I miss it I’m out. 

Gaz: Did practice help with confidence? 

Mathis: In practice you have an hour and a half plus five on five, so your confidence goes up but when you get in a game you need five or ten minutes to get into the flow, doing some things like maybe a lay-up to help you get into the game and get yourself going. You can’t usually just come into the game and just start hitting threes.

Gaz: What did you think about Mathis Monninghoff and his shooting ability? Did his lack of minutes cause him to lose confidence too? 

Mathis: He was the best shooter I have ever seen in my life. But, he missed so many shots because he didn’t have any rhythm. During his freshman year when he was getting 20/25 minutes a game he had confidence so he would hit those shots. When you get in for only 5 minutes it makes it very hard to hit them. It has a very large impact. 

Gaz: Which coach did you have the best relationship with? 

Mathis: Oh, Tommy Lloyd because he recruited me so we had a better relationship. We talked throughout the season the most. 

Gaz: Did he know you were not confident? Did you feel the staff should have done a better job in that respect? 

Mathis: I don’t feel they helped me with it, but like at the same time it’s not on them, it’s me. I don’t think any coach is going to come to you and bring you confidence. You have to bring it yourself, you know? But it comes to playing time too. If you don’t play, it’s hard to get. I’m not blaming them. I don’t know, maybe I was not good enough; maybe they could have done some things better. I am not really sure. 

Gaz: In your opinion, was the communication between you and the staff satisfactory or not? 

Mathis: I think they could have done a better job communicating, but it wasn’t really bad either. Maybe they could have talked to me more. Sometimes they couldn’t. I felt like I did a good job of practicing hard and keeping my head up so maybe that is why they didn’t feel they needed to. 

Gaz: I really appreciate you letting me dig into aspects of your transfer, but I ‘d like to move on to some other things. Was there any player in particular that you enjoyed hanging out with? 

Mathis: Actually not. I hung out with everyone. I liked and got along great with everyone on the team, the freshman, Kelly, Elias, David, Marquise, and Guy because he was French. I know I am forgetting some. But, we had a lot of fun together. 

Gaz: Did you have a favorite place to eat in Spokane? 

Mathis: Oh man, I loved Wolfy’s the best. Their hamburgers were really good and their strawberry milkshakes were my favorite. 

Gaz: I heard you love Pringles chips too. Is that right? 

Mathis: Yeah, they are my favorite chips. I put that on my twitter, lol. 

Gaz: Oh, that reminds me. I noticed some tweets about a diet food on your Twitter; you don’t look like a guy that needs those kinds of products, what’s up with that? 

Mathis: It’s not me posting those. I got hacked. It happens a lot and I think it happened to Gary (Bell) as well. 

Gaz: What will you miss the most about Gonzaga; it won’t be the playing time of course, lol. 

Mathis: (He laughs), that’s for sure. I’ll definitely miss the crowd at the games. My last year was not very successful but I’ve played in that gym and It felt so good to have them behind you like when I was playing against LMU or Xavier, it was an amazing feeling. I’ll truly miss all the people, the fans, my teammates, staff, and my advisers. Everyone was so friendly. I’ll miss my student friends as well. After three years it’s hard to leave them. 

Gaz: What’s going on with you this summer, will you be playing any basketball? 

Mathis: I will be visiting with my Grandparents for a while then I will probably be playing in a couple tournaments and camps. My Uncle is the organizer for one, so I will definitely be playing it that. Not sure yet about everything but I will be going to my new school around 15th of August. 

Gaz: You chose to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania and do some ballin for the Crimson Hawks, what led you there?  

Mathis: At first I was looking at some D1 schools and I took a visit to Portland State but it didn’t happen. Then I started talking to some friends. I talked to a lot of French guys I know playing in the N.C.A.A. from other teams and they were saying to check out D2 programs. I got some calls and IUP is a good school so I took a look and I really liked it. 

Gaz: Will you get to start or play lots of minutes there? When you transfer from a D1 school to a D2 school, you do not have to sit out a year, Did that play into your decision as well? 

Mathis: Yes, I will get to play a lot right away. I won’t have to sit out a year because it is D2. Also, they lost their two leading scorers and they were wings so I should be able to start along with another guy who red-shirted there last season. They have a really good basketball team and they have have a lot of success. See here: Crimson Hawks

Gaz: Ok, is there anything you want to say to your fans from Gonzaga about transferring, your Zag experience, or whatever? 

Mathis: I had a good time at Gonzaga, I truly did. I wish I could have spent two more years and been more successful, personally, and on the team. I still love Gonzaga and I’ll be following the program and seeing how my friends are doing. I will be happy to see them do well.  

Gaz:  Merci beaucoup Mathis. We really appreciate you taking the time for the interview. Best of luck to you, we’ll be pulling for you to do well and show the coaches what they missed out on. Thanks for being a Zag. You have a great opportunity moving forward and we are excited for you. 

Mathis: Thank you, I really appreciate it. Nice talking to you again… Go ZAGS! ~ 

Follow Mathis Keita- on Twitter


Woohoo said...

Wow. Awesome interview.

Seems like a really good guy.

Gonzagapride said...

Thanks for a great interview Gaz. I have often thought about how difficult it is for players to desire more minutes and the pressure that must be on them to perform when they are called on. The thoughts that must go through their heads; do I take the shot and miss and jeopardize the opportunity to keep gaining minutes, do I not take the shot and not make an impression. A difficult place for any player trying to increase their stock.
One thing I did admire about Keita was that he always exhibited excitement for the success of the team even when he was on the bench. When the cameras were panned on the bench he was supporting the team, clapping, jumping up with excitement, rushing out to the players, etc. This was a big difference from some of our past players who made their feelings known about how they felt at being on the bench.
Good luck at IUP Mathis. I hope you find success.

Zag_Whisperer said...

Great interview Gaz!

Not to go down the negative road but this was very telling:

"Gaz: Did you feel you could pull the trigger on an open shot? Or were you tentative at all?

Mathis: Unfortunately, it was like I knew I would get one shot, you know? I was like, should I take it now, or should I wait. It wasn’t like I’m open I’ll shoot. It was like I’m going to get one shot, if I make it I’ll get five more minutes, if I miss it I’m out."

No one can play like that and we saw this with Hoff, Keita, Carter and even Downs. A kid can work his tail off but if his confidence is undermined, forget about it.

TheCanadianPipeline said...

Great interview Gaz!

Josh Linke said...

Gaz might just be the best interviewer i have seen in a while, no kidding...very candid and direct...

gaz-tastic said...

Appreciate the kind words.

I always LOVE player interviews.

Mathis was a bit different of an interview in that he will no longer be a Zag, but I still felt like fans wanted to know why. I certainly did.

After so many transfers in the past couple of years I wanted to dig, and ask a player what was going on behind the scenes.

Mathis put up with my pointed questions and I really appreciated that.

He is a great kid....somewhat disapointed in how his career went at Gonzaga but he is looking forward to more playing time. He just wants to play.

I can understand that.