Charles Matthews is officially moving on.
Matthews, a redshirt junior, announced on Wednesday that he will forgo his final season of eligibility and stay in the NBA draft.
“Last week, I spoke about my desire to play professional basketball. Reaching that goal has been a driving force as far back as I can remember,” Matthews said in a tweeted statement on the program’s account. “Now is my chance. Now I make it official that I will be departing the University of Michigan.
“Michigan has meant so much to me that words cannot express my gratitude for what it has provided to me. It has helped shape me into a man, and I am so thankful for my time in Ann Arbor.”
Matthews (6-foot-6, 205 pounds) averaged a team-high 14.3 points and seven rebounds in the NCAA Tournament to help the Wolverines reach the Sweet 16 for the third straight year.
An All-Big Ten honorable mention selection, he also finished the regular season as Michigan’s third-leading scorer (12.2 points) and rebounder (five) in addition to being one of the top wing defenders on one of the nation’s best defensive units.
“He's been the cornerstone and the rock of our defensive effort for the last two years,” assistant coach Luke Yaklich said after Michigan lost to Texas Tech in the Sweet 16. “X (Zavier Simpson) was the first, but he was the second one to come up to me in the summer when I first got here and just said, 'Coach, I'm the best wing defender in the country.' And I just looked at him and I said, 'I can't wait to coach you then.'
“I remember that's how it started, and he's proven to be just that. He just had a great career.”
After transferring from Kentucky and sitting out the 2016-17 season due to transfer rules, Matthews played in all but three games over the past two seasons, and the Wolverines went 61-14 with him in the starting lineup.
During his three years in Ann Arbor, Matthews made a lasting impression with everyone he played with as he went from playing on scout team to helping lead the Wolverines to back-to-back 30-win seasons for the first time.
"It's just the relationship we developed over the year,” freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis said. “We were roommates since the first away game. It means so much to me. He taught me so many things on and off the court, and I feel like we've built a lifelong relationship. I feel like we're going to be brothers for life. It was amazing learning from him and just being around him."
According to his teammates, Matthews’ departure will leave a void that will be hard to fill on and off the court.
“He's meant so much,” junior center Jon Teske said. “I could always talk to him and he's more of a quiet guy and kept to himself, but he's a very relaxed guy, loves to have fun. His leadership, his experience on both sides of the ball, how talkative he was — if we're missing that then that's a key piece. Obviously, a lot of guys will have to step up but that's what this program does. One guy goes down, everyone is going to step up. We're going to miss him."
Matthews is ranked No. 69 in ESPN’s top 100 prospects for the NBA draft, which will be held June 20, and is projected to be a late second-round pick by Sports Illustrated.
He declared for the draft without an agent last year and went through pre-draft workouts with the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks before he suffered a wrist injury that caused him to cancel the rest of his workouts.
He eventually returned to Michigan with the hopes of evolving his game, developing his 3-point shot and helping the Wolverines reach the national title game for the second straight season.
And while the last part didn't work out, Matthews will still leave a lasting mark with the two Big Ten tournament title banners and Final Four banner he helped Michigan put in the Crisler Center rafters.
“Look at the impact that he's made on our program,” coach John Beilein said. “The defense and what he brought to practice every day is incredible. That's why we were so (successful). Give a lot of credit to Luke, without question, but give a lot of credit to Charles because he was getting it done. He does it every day in practice like that. The loose basketballs he got, all those things, it's not a coincidence that we won (61) games with him in the lineup. It proves you can win a lot of different ways.
"He certainly wasn't a volume 3-point guy like many of our leading scorers have been, but he did other things. Really just a great career here for us. I think he's got a real chance as a three-and-D type of guy because it will give him time and he can do that. He can guard anybody. He can go on an NBA court and guard people."
2019 Michigan Basketball Awards
►Bill Buntin Most Valuable Player: Zavier Simpson
►Wayman Britt Outstanding Defensive Player: Charles Matthews
►Travis Conlan Sportsmanship Award: Isaiah Livers
►Rudy Tomjanovich Most Improved Player: Jon Teske
►Sixth Man Award: Isaiah Livers
►Steve Grote Hustle Award: Zavier Simpson
►Thad Garner Leadership Award: Charles Matthews
►Iron Man Award: Ignas Brazdeikis
►Award for Outstanding Free Throw Shooting: Jordan Poole
►Morgan/Bodnar Brothers Award for Academic Achievement: Austin Davis & Rico Ozuna-Harrison
►Gary Grant Award for Most Assists: Zavier Simpson
►Loy Vaught Rebounding Award: Jon Teske