MORGANTOWN — Fresh off a cross-country flight from the West Coast, Emmitt Matthews scribbled his first autographs as a Mountaineer on Saturday afternoon, volunteering alongside other WVU basketball players at a kids camp on campus.
“It’s my first day here, so they don’t know who I am yet,” joked the four-star freshman from Tacoma, Wash. “The kids just know that I’m a player, and to them, that’s what matters.
“It’s been a really good time today because the kids had a great outlook. No down faces, no attitude, no darkness here. Everybody was all light, all positive. They make us players want to go hard and get to the next level after this, maybe have our own camps someday.”
While fans can visualize Matthews becoming a pro — he dyed his curly faux-hawk to match Kelly Oubre — for now, they’re daydreaming about next season and how the elite small forward can make an impact on “Press Virginia.” The sixth and final member to enroll from a consensus top-25 recruiting class, Matthews understood how life was changing when his family gave him an airport sendoff June 22.
His mom turned teary-eyed, and just as expectedly, his father, an Army veteran, didn’t.
“Dad’s a soldier, so he doesn’t cry like that. He tries not to show himself, but he probably cried when he got home.”
Matthews’ 15-year-old sister, Ahmani, could’ve flooded the terminal.
“She let it all out,” he said. “She’s like my best friend.”
His new best friend in Morgantown is an old acquaintance, fellow freshman Jordan McCabe. They were youth-ball teammates in Seattle years ago, before McCabe moved to Wisconsin in the eighth grade.
“We were just kids playing basketball back then, and college wasn’t even on our minds,” McCabe said. “Now it’s cool to have someone to confide in.”
Given a month’s head start on campus, McCabe noticed his new roommate being interviewed and had fun putting Matthews on the spot with the ensuing line of questions:
McCABE: “I’m here with Emmitt Matthews, and Emmitt, how do you think the people of West Virginia are going to take to your hairstyle?”
MATTHEWS: “They’re going to love it. I’ve got this one guy, I think his name’s Jordan, and he’s kinda famous on Instagram. He said he wanted to copy it.”
McCABE: “So he’s going to get a perm? You’re saying Jordan McCabe will be rocking a perm this year?”
MATTHEWS: “Yeah, a perm for the season. Curls out.”
McCABE: “All right, hashtag curls out.”
Their on-court chemistry appears equally as tight. Within hours of Matthews arriving, they hit the practice facility to work on shooting drills. It marked another assist for the point guard McCabe, who pitched WVU as a landing spot after a coaching change at UConn led Matthews to be released from his national letter of intent.
“Me and Trey (Doomes) and other guys in our class really wanted him to be a part of it,” McCabe said.
“I knew UConn was a spot he wanted to go at first, but I figured things were going to fall through there. And once they did, we just wanted him to join us here with a great class and some great upperclassmen. We kind of made a bomb squad.”
A slender 6-foot-7, the left-handed Matthews set a goal of adding 15 pounds “so I can go into the season at 200 or 205.” That means daily appointments with the weight room are on tap, but after autographing a series of gold-and-blue basketballs Saturday, his next task was one familiar to every college newbie: “Just unpacking.”