Local standouts Maten, Matthews get Pistons workouts

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Georgia's Yante Maten (1), a Pontiac native, worked out Tuesday for the Detroit Pistons.

Auburn Hills — The next few days hold the key to Yante Maten’s future.

Maten, who went to Bloomfield Hills High School and the University of Georgia, will find out Thursday whether a team took a chance on him in the NBA draft. Otherwise, he’ll have to figure out what the next move will be.

After Tuesday’s workout with the Pistons, who have the 42nd overall pick, Maten was optimistic after his 12th workout of the pre-draft process, but realistic about the future holds.

“I don’t really know what’s going to happen but I’m just praying,” said Maten, a Pontiac native. “God got me this far and I’ll put my trust in Him that it all works out. If I have to take a back road, I’ll just take a back road.”

That alternate route could be as a free agent or playing overseas, but the goal is to make it to the NBA, one way or another.

It’s the same faith that led Maten to pick Georgia, where he had a good four-year career with the Bulldogs. Rather than stay closer to home at Indiana, his other college option, Maten said he got a definitive decision and followed his heart and his faith.

“Me and my mom just prayed in separate rooms and came back out and heard that God was telling me to go to Georgia,” he said. “They had my major and they recruited me and I felt like they’d use me a lot — and they did.”

Maten, a 6-foot-8 forward, averaged an SEC-leading 19.3 points and added 8.6 rebounds as a senior, hitting 34 percent on 3-pointers. In his four years at Georgia, his career 3-point average was 40 percent, which could translate well to his versatility on both ends of the court.

Beyond his achievements on the court, Maten also excelled in the classroom, but wasn’t able to finish his degree in wildlife biology. It’s an unusual interest and major for an athlete and Maten said he was drawn to it during his childhood, when he was frequently outside.

Spending time in California, he had plenty of opportunities to explore and figure out what he wanted to do. He wants to use the degree to become a wildlife biologist and possible work in animal conservation in Africa.  

“There’s a book that says that if you’re exposed at a young age to the outdoors, you’re going to be inclined to do it when you’re older. I was exposed a lot when you’re a kid and I believe that’s what happened,” Maten said.

“In California, we used to chase lizards and go in the river and swim. We were a little wild bunch. I think it played a role in what I thought I could do with the rest of my life.”

Maten said he’s only a few classes away from finishing his degree and because some of them are labs and require time outside with the animals, he might not get to finish it until next year.

Tryout takes twist

The day started with promise for Rhode Island guard E.C. Matthews, who played in high school at Romulus. As he was doing the first drill, he was going in for a layup and severely twisted his ankle.

Former Rhode Island star E.C. Matthews (0), a Romulus product, worked out Tuesday for the Detroit Pistons.

The Pistons, erring on the side of caution, decided to have Matthews just watch from the sideline and not participate in the workout at all, rather than risk injury.

Matthews is an intriguing possibility for the Pistons, as he’s a combo guard with good size, at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds. As a senior, he averaged 13.6 points and 4.1 rebounds but shot only 32 percent on 3-pointers.

His versatility looks to be what NBA teams see as Matthews' biggest asset.

"They’ve seen me up close and personal, my size and wingspan and knowing I can play either (guard position) and be a playmaker and make open threes and get others involved," Matthews said. "I can guard (all the wing positions) and that’s the advantage of being in these workouts."

After about 10 individual workouts, Matthews was happy to wrap up the process with the Pistons.

“It was perfect because it’s my hometown and I got a chance to work out for the home team — and I can go home after this,” Matthews said. “It was an honor. I don’t know about all the other hometown guys who get to work out for this organization but I felt honored and blessed to end this experience in my hometown, doing it for a team that I’ve watched since I was a little kid.”