Welcome to A10 Talk’s Top Pre-Season Top 25 Player Countdown for the 2016-17 season. Each day, we’ll be publishing a new article counting down our best 25 players for the coming season. Today, we feature #4 E.C. Matthews of Rhode Island.
What He’s Done
For Rhode Island, the prodigal son has returned. Expectations for E.C. were sky-high last season until he tore his ACL and subsequently had to miss the entire 2015-16 season. Matthews had one hell of a sophomore season, averaging 16.9 points per game and leading his team to its first winning season since 2010-2011. As a freshman, Matthews stole the show in Kingston and won A-10 Rookie of the Year.
Matthews has a rock-solid jumpshot and is capable of scoring from anywhere on the court. He’s shown, as an underclassmen, that he can be a complete player who affects all area of the game. In addition to being a great scorer, Matthews has shown that he can be effective on the glass; he averaged 4.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore and 4.3 as a freshman. Perhaps one of the best parts about his game is that he gets to the free throw line frequently and makes 73.4% of his attempts. Matthews had 5 games with 10 free throw attempts or more in the 2014-15 season. Matthews can live at the free throw line and rack up points in a hurry.
What He’ll Do
E.C. Matthews remains one of the biggest question marks heading into the 2016-17 season. Can he bounce back from his injury and live up to the high expectations? Matthews had an incredible sophomore season and had a really good shot at winning A-10 Player of the Year before going down with a torn ACL, but it’s reasonable to expect similar results from the rising junior. He’s going to be fully healthy and ready to go this year, and the Rams are looking to be a very dangerous team in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Matthews is going to have a load of reinforcements to help him lead this team. Jarvis Garrett and Jared Terrell will be key returnees in the backcourt; Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson could make up one of the formidable frontcourts in the conference as well. All of the pieces of the puzzle seem to be coming together for Rhody, and Matthews may be the biggest piece of them all. If he can return to, or even improve on, what he did as a sophomore for these Rams, there is no doubt Rhode Island will be an NCAA Tournament team. If Matthews digresses because he missed an entire season, the Rams could struggle. I’d expect the former. This kid blew up his first two seasons and clearly has the talent to be one of the best in the league. Expect big things from Matthews this season, and the Rhode Island Rams could be the team to beat this year.
Previously: #5 Tyler Cavanaugh